Vulnerability-based policy learning?

An abstract in preparation for a meeting in Boulder, Colorado:

Vulnerability-based policy learning?
On the interplay of coping arrangements, vulnerabilities and losses in community‐based flood management

By William R. Freudenburga and Karl-Michael Höferlb

a … Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara
b … ILEN, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna

The floods of 2002 in large parts of Europe and in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina 2005 in the USA revealed the vulnerability of developed countries to floods. So far different approaches on vulnerability assessment have been used to provide a basis to (re‑)design/enforce flood adaptation and mitigation strategies. This conception of a vulnerability-based policy learning unfolds itself along an (unspoken) rationalistic assumption: the higher the existing vulnerabilities and losses due to past floods, the higher the pressure to redesign/enforce flood adaptation and mitigation strategies. In contrast statements like “knowing better and losing even more” document clearly, that this rationalistic assumption is not indisputable. A group of scholars, recruiting itself out of a variety of disciplines, advocates therefore a rather limited potential for policy learning due to vulnerabilities, past floods and losses. Despite this critique little empirical knowledge on the interplay between adaptation and mitigation strategies, vulnerabilities and losses is available in the field of flood management.

By interpreting flood management as a cyclic socio-ecological interaction, main features of a research perspective focusing on the interplay of coping arrangements, vulnerabilities and losses due to past floods will be discussed. This perspective tries to improve the understanding of local conditions in communities, under which the redesign/enforcement of coping arrangements takes and might take place. Concurrently it is an approach to evaluate the earlier mentioned vulnerability‑based policy learning and its rationalistic framing. Finally the application of this perspective to community-based flood management in the USA will be set forth.

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