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Session Overview
RN12_02b_P: Natural Disasters and the Role of Technologies
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Balint BALAZS, ESSRG
Location: PC.2.13
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 2.

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The meaning and shaping of unanticipated consequences in environmental disasters. Conceptual usage and political implications

Rolf Lidskog

Orebro University, Sweden

Unanticipated consequences has been touched upon by many sociological contributors, not least by Robert Merton. This paper discusses unanticipated consequences within the context of risk society, a society with high degree of risk consciousness among its members and institutions. Starting by a general discussion of the character of unanticipated consequences – its relation to unintended consequences, indirect consequences, side effects and secondary effects – this paper stresses the importance to investigate why certain consequences of social action are defined as unanticipated. The reason for this is that even if our actions frequently spin away from their intended and projected paths of development, yet the new paths are often possible to anticipate as low probability risks. Based on this understanding of unanticipated consequences, this paper analyses a particular case; the largest forest fire in modern Swedish history. Based on two interview studies and a postal survey, it explores how the affected evaluate the causes and consequences of the wildfire. A complex picture is found where the wildfire is seen as a human-caused disasters with far-reaching unintended consequences, but followed by very little blame-making or strong criticism towards the organisations that are seen as having caused this wildfire. By using framing theory and sociology of risk, this paper explains this seemingly contradictory result. Particularly it shows how the framing of context, causes and consequences of disaster heavily affected how it became to be seen as not totally unanticipated, but nevertheless with little distribution of blame and accountability.

Detention basins versus floodable lands: models of water security face social contingencies

Giorgio Osti

University of Trieste, Italy

Water security is a big problem in Europe. Floods are the most damaging events. European Union and National Governments pay great attention to prevention and reaction to floods. There is a EU Directive on the assessment and management of flood risks. Most countries have adopted the principles proclaimed in the directive: people participation, integrated management, risk planning. Special catchment authorities have been created or reinforced for embodying those principles.

Despite a so rational and systemic frame the praxis is rhapsodic. According to the punctuated equilibrium theory radical changes occur suddenly and for a short period. It depends on the convergence of a variety of causes, that open windows of opportunity. Such an event causes changes on power and interests equilibrium, too.

The evolution of some Italian water detention basin projects will be studied according to punctuated equilibrium theory. The specific hypothesis is however less optimistic on change extension. The implementation of these great public works is due to a variety of contingent factors, but balances of powers, not last expertise (civil engineering), is not so deformable. In any case, detention basin is described as an ideal solution, a constructed image useful for covering its huge cost. The attempts to realise this infrastructure create two opposition trends: one from landowners, who claims for compensations, the other from those proposing micro-solutions: a thick network of small channels and ponds to be realised mainly in the countryside. Legal arrangements, like flowage easements, are useful for translating models into practices.

Pro-environmental behaviours and activism in a comparative European perspective

Egle Butkeviciene, Egle Vaidelyte

Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania

Environmental activism and other ways of pro-environmental behaviours have become a valuable part of our contemporary societies. Although there is a growing literature on this issue (Freymeyer, Johnson, 2010; Balzekiene, Telesiene, 2011; Hadler, Haller, 2011; 2013; Franzen, Vogl, 2013; Reyes, 2013; 2014), a number of questions about the environmental behaviour and activism in a comparative perspective are still understudied. This article investigates environmental activism focusing on a socio‐demographical profile of environmental group members across the European countries and patterns of environmentally‐oriented public behaviours (e.g. civic activities such as signing a petition about an environmental issue, giving money to an environmental group, or taking part in a protest or demonstration about an environmental issue, being a member of environmental NGO) as well as environmentally‐oriented private behaviours (e.g. sorting glass or tins or plastic or newspapers and so on for recycling, cutting back on driving a car, reducing the energy or fuel you use at home, choosing to save or re-use water and avoiding of buying certain products for environmental reasons). The study also employs comparison of data on the attitudes towards the best ways of getting business and industry and people and their families to protect the environment: should we punish, reward or educate?

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