Social Processes and Volcanic Risk Reduction.

The new Edition of Encyclopaedia of Volcanoes is almost here! It will have an awesome 78 Chapters of volcanic goodness. I’m a co-author of Chapter 69 (yes, really)  ‘Social Processes and Volcanic Risk Reduction’.

Following the publication rights of the Encyclopaedia I can send you a formatted offprint if you email me at j.barclay’at’uea.ac.uk. Please do.

We were originally asked to focus on the perception and communication of volcanic hazards, which is a rich topic already. The Encyclopaedia has many fantastic chapters on volcanic hazards, their impacts and management, but had no others on social processes in affected communities…. so we asked to extend our remit. We got permission and accumulated a new author(*) along the way.

Having asked to extend our agenda we then had to figure out how to cram a good synthesis of all the knowledge into 10,000 words or less.

Tungurahua with Banos in the foreground and the communities around the flank (Photo: Jon Stone)
Tungurahua with Banos in the foreground and the communities around the flank (Photo: Jon Stone)

Our starting point had to be the fact that ‘risk’ in volcanic communities is a combination of both dynamic hazards and dynamic population vulnerabilities. In many cases both change during the course of an eruption, and never in isolation from one another.  A good example is the current eruption of Calbuco: any new eruption will not only send ash and flows onto a landscape physically changed by last week’s activity, the social cultural and political landscape has also shifted in response to those events.

Thus we started by trying to map out end member ‘outcomes’ that have been documented as a consequence of both social vulnerabilities and volcanic behaviour. Outcomes can be negative and positive!

Our end member outcome 'map'. I can share this as, thanks to good advice from UEA's Open Access officer (Anna Collins), I retained the copyright.
Our end member outcome ‘map’. I can share this as, thanks to good advice from UEA’s Open Access officer (Anna Collins), I retained the copyright.

Understanding the range of volcanic activity and associated timescales created a good backdrop for considering the different ways in which risk communication occurs.

Mapping outcomes is fine but we also tried to consider the drivers of those outcomes – and given the Chapter Topic – we focussed on the social drivers. The topics as a list are: risk perception; knowledge transfer, governance, livelihoods and poverty, culture and religion, gender, age and disability, trust (and competing messages).

To keep the emphasis on our view that disaster never happens as a consequence of either a single social or physical aspect we used four case studies(**)  to illustrate how these social drivers interact with physical drivers.

Probably, the thinking of each  author has moved on and evolved a little in year or so since we finished the chapter, I know mine has. The interdisciplinary study of volcanic eruptions and the populations impacted by them is a pretty dynamic (and exciting) field itself. Hopefully when its time for the third edition of the Encyclopaedia to come around it will be time for another total re-write — and perhaps one or two Chapters more in this field.

Barclay, J., Haynes, K., Houghton, B., Johnston, D., 2015. Social Processes and Volcanic Risk Reduction. In: Sigurdsson, H., Houghton, B., Rymer, H., Stix, J., McNutt, S. (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, pp. 1203–1214.

(*) I am a terrifically non-mysterious person by nature (in fact some might say utterly not very mysterious or completely not enigmatic at all). I like to experiment with it though. Not telling you which author was the new author.

(**) Eyjyafjallajokull, Mayon, Nevado del Ruiz and Goma. That was a tough short-list.

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