Human vulnerability in volcanic environments: the case of Furnas, Sao Miguel, Azores

Chris Dibben, D K Chester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The need to examine the vulnerability of people to natural hazards, in addition to the long-established requirement to study extreme events of nature, is being increasingly recognised within disaster research. Following a discussion of the nature of human vulnerability, we propose a framework for its analysis within the context of volcanic activity and we exemplify our approach by a detailed study of Furnas, a village located at the centre of a volcano with the same name on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. The methods used included in-depth interviews with permanent residents (n = 50), analysis of census records and an examination of the socio-economic history of the town. The vulnerability of an individual to volcanic hazards involves a complex interaction of elements which, in addition to the usual factors taken into account in programmes of hazard reduction (e.g., the nature of the physical threat, location and economic situation), also comprises his or her social context and a number of physiological and psychological considerations. It is argued, further, that both generally and in the case of Furnas, the root causes of vulnerability lie in the history and development of society. Individual decision making is fundamental but takes place within and cannot be separated from this social context. Vulnerability analysis allows the identification of points where intervention may be successful in reducing the likelihood of suffering in a society. It avoids the problem of people's unexpected reactions to invention leading to a changing or even increasing level of vulnerability, by studying society rather than just one aspect of volcanic hazard in isolation. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-150
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Volume92
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 1999

Keywords

  • Furnas volcano
  • Sao Miguel
  • Azores
  • loss reduction
  • human vulnerability
  • social impact
  • economic impact
  • health impact

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