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    Macalester College
  Dec 13, 2017
College Catalog 2012-2013 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

GEOG 258 - Geography of Environmental Hazards

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The study of environmental hazards stands at a key point of intersection between the physical and the human worlds. Once commonly referred to as “natural hazards,” environmental hazards are increasingly being recognized as critically influenced by human behavior, broadening our understanding of how such hazards can and should be addressed. Additionally, many now argue that natural events only become ‘disasters’ once human communities become involved, emphasizing the importance of considering human vulnerability in any approach to studying hazards. Geography, with its focus on human-environment interactions, provides key theoretical approaches that can help to elucidate these complexities. Recognizing this key shift in hazards thinking, this course considers environmental hazards largely from a human perspective. A brief background to the basic geophysical processes that underlie environmental hazards is provided to develop sufficient grounding for a thorough understanding of relevant issues, but the remainder of the course focuses on how people influence and are influenced by hazards. This human approach considers three main themes related to hazards geography. First, what influences vulnerability to environmental hazards, focusing on issues of inequality at global, regional, and local scales? Second, how might planning for and mitigation of disasters associated with hazards be undertaken more effectively in the context of such understandings of vulnerability? Finally, how can geographic methods and approaches best be employed to reduce people’s vulnerability to environmental hazards? (4 Credits)