Leaving the city for the suburbs - The dominance of 'ordinary' decision making over volcanic risk perception in the production of volcanic risk on Mt Etna, Sicily

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Abstract

The belief that perception plays a central role in the production of risk has tended to dominate research on 'natural' hazards. Critics have commented on its lack of explanatory power in situations where individuals are heavily constrained in their actions but less has been said about how it might also be a weak form of explanation in contexts where individuals have more choices, albeit ultimately bounded. On Etna (Italy), in the last fifty years, the expansion of towns to accommodate the city of Catania's population has taken place despite very obvious threats from volcanic activity and alternative, 'safer', sites for building being available. People are moving into these towns for the same reasons people across the world are moving out of cities, to improve their quality of life. Individuals living in one of these expanded towns, Trecastagni, appear to cognitively diminish their perceptions of volcanic threat within a context of social representations of low risk. This is especially true of those who have moved into the town. It is concluded that the production of risk within society on Etna is strongly related to the socio-economic nature of the region and wider European and global contexts that create opportunities and constraints across socio-physical space encouraging behaviour and forms of life that are higher risk. Risk perception appears to play little or no role in this process. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-299
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Volume172
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2008

Keywords

  • risk perception
  • Mount Etna
  • cognitive dissonance
  • commuting
  • MOUNT-ETNA
  • RESPONSES

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