In ourselves we trust / Columns / The Foreigner

The Foreigner In ourselves we trust. Last week, I attended a conference in Bielefeld, Germany focusing on “Communicating Disaster”. We asked, How can and should communication be done for the horror of calamity that too often pervades our media? Speakers frequently mentioned Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunamis, 9/11, and Japan's 2011 earthquake/tsunami. These are iconic disasters with common, iconic images. How much can others relate to them in order to reduce their own disaster risk? These disasters are seen as relevant in Norway because Norwegians in the locations were directly affected. For Norwegians who did not suffer immediately, such as by losing someone they knew, we wondered how we could communicate about disaster, to make these distant events germane here and now.

naturaldisastersnorway, hurricanekatrina, tsunaminorwegians



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In ourselves we trust

Published on Saturday, 4th February, 2012 at 11:24 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

Last week, I attended a conference in Bielefeld, Germany focusing on “Communicating Disaster”. We asked, How can and should communication be done for the horror of calamity that too often pervades our media?



Speakers frequently mentioned Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunamis, 9/11, and Japan's 2011 earthquake/tsunami. These are iconic disasters with common, iconic images. How much can others relate to them in order to reduce their own disaster risk?

These disasters are seen as relevant in Norway because Norwegians in the locations were directly affected. For Norwegians who did not suffer immediately, such as by losing someone they knew, we wondered how we could communicate about disaster, to make these distant events germane here and now.

The ultimate purpose is to convince everyone to take responsibility for themselves to understand and reduce their own vulnerability--at home and while travelling. That might be learning first aid, purchasing property insurance, or advocating for stricter government regulations against housing in floodplains. All these actions involve communication about disaster.

A common conference theme was that communication is most effective when trust exists amongst those communicating. Conversely, it is not a given that continual traffic breeds trust if information provided is inaccurate or unusable.

How to build trust to deal with disasters is an ongoing research area, for which we have few verified solutions. How many of us trust our government to close roads threatened by an avalanche or landslide? How many trust the Norwegian Natural Perils Pool, the national disaster insurance organisation, to pay fully and promptly if your property is flooded?

A good beginning in Norway is that trust in authorities in Norway tends to be high compared to other countries.

Nonetheless, can too much trust be counterproductive when it comes to disaster preparation? Are we lulled into a false sense of security in trusting authorities will take care of everything before, during, and after a disaster?

Perhaps it is time to look at how much personal responsibility we should take to take care of ourselves instead. A balance of trust and constructive scepticism rather than distrust is required.

Avoiding disaster means working together, not just relying on someone else to protect you. So when are you going to start?

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).



Published on Saturday, 4th February, 2012 at 11:24 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: naturaldisastersnorway, hurricanekatrina, tsunaminorwegians.





  
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