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Forestry clearance and storage timber.

Hazards to the environment

Healthy, productive and protective natural environments are now accepted to underpin human welfare. We use the environment and convert its resources into those that directly support us – agriculture, food, manufacturing and so on.

The degradation of the natural environment, such as forests, wetlands, coastal and marine systems, and drylands by anthropogenic activity is a major driver of disaster risk and a key component of disaster vulnerability.

Population growth and economic development are seen as ubiquitous drivers of environmental change through energy, transport, urbanisation, and globalisation (UNEP 2019).

The fact that more than 50% of land on the African continent is degraded plays no small part in the vulnerability of its people.

All systems can be damaged, overloaded, or reach their ecological threshold. A point where further change or disturbance will cause rapid and irreversible change in the ecosystem itself. The ‘right’ to unlimited economic growth has led to unsustainable overconsumption of energy, fresh water, forest and marine habitats, clean air and fertile soils across the globe.

The conversion of mangrove forests into shrimp farms, primary forests into plantations, wetlands and floodplains into urban developments continues largely unabated (UNISDR 2015).

Overconsumption is socially and geographically unequal. Those who benefit from the consumption and wealth generated do not bear the risks generated in its creation. Risk is transferred to others – the poor, the exploited and most vulnerable – amplifying inequality through redistribution of disaster risks from those who cause risk to others (UNISDR 2015).

Your task

Can you identify an example or case study of environmental hazards and risk redistribution within your home country?


UNEP (2019) Global Environment Outlook 6 [online] available from https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/global-environment-outlook-6 [12 December 2019]

UNISDR (2015) Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 [online] available from https://www.preventionweb.net/english/hyogo/gar/2015/en/home/index.html [12 December 2019]

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This article is from the free online course:

Disaster Risk Reduction: An Introduction

Coventry University