USP 530 – Session 8

March 17th
Session Eight: Disaster Preparation and Resilience in Cities

In this session we will focus on disaster preparation and resilience in cities. We will focus on the root causes of disasters, profiteering from disasters, the differential impact of disasters on different populations, and disaster preparation and resilience. We will be guided by the following questions:


  • Disaster is a noun
    • A sudden event such as an accident or natural catastrophe that causes great damage or loss of life
  • Resilient is an adjective
    • The ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions
    • Synonyms: Strong, tough, hardy
  • 7 most at risk cities in US are in California
  • 3 in 5 cities worldwide with at least 500k pop are at a high risk of a natural disaster
    • Collectively these cities are home to 1/3 of the world’s urban population
  • Many large cities are subject to 4 or 5 different kinds of natural disasters
  • Only three of the megacities (>10m pop) in the world are not at high risk of natural disasters
  • Building resilient and sustainable cities highlights the need for those cities to be able to
    • maximally prepared to absorb the impact of hazards
    • protect and preserve human lives
    • limit damage and destruction
    • do all of that while providing the critical infrastructure and services
  • what would a city need to prepare
    • backup water supply
    • rainy day fund
    • backup communications system
    • backup energy systems
    • backup food distribution system
    • automatic gas shut-offs in houses for earthquakes
    • shovels
    • disaster training
  • Climate change means there will be an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters in the coming years
  • Shock doctrine: book written after the tsunami in bali
    • Government and private sector work together to take advantage of chaotic situations and privatize public entities.
    • Investigated what happened very quickly
    • Also what happened over time
    • In Bali, the government told the fishermen residents they needed to be moved. came in with guns and forcibly removed them much further away from the coast because they said that area was unsafe for habitation. then they sold that land to luxury hotel developers
    • City of New Orleans used hurricane Katrina as an excuse to close schools, hospitals, and public housing in black neighborhoods and then sell it all off to private organizations


  1. What are the root causes of the range of disasters affecting cities?
  2. Can we distinguish between human versus natural root causes of disasters?
  3. Are corporations profiting from disasters?
  4. Do we have a moral compass on disaster profiteering?
  5. How do disasters impact different populations in cities?
  6. What strategies and policies can be used to increase resilience in cities?
  7. How can we ensure that these policies are inclusive?

Assigned Readings  

  1. Billionaire Bonanza from COVID-19
    • Bezos used to shock doctrine to make tens of billions of dollars as a result of the pandemic
    • Wealth tax would help cover the costs of the disaster
    • The policies that were in place and the policies that were not in place gave rise to a situation in which people who had a monopoly in certain parts of the economy were able to make huge amounts of money by taking advantage of vulnerable populations.
  2. The differential impact of disasters on different populations
    • Making Cities Resilient
      • A study conducted by UN
      • Surveyed cities around the world to assess their resiliency
      • Three levels
        • Have they done the analysis and planning on disaster preparation (80% did)
        • Have they followed through by providing resources like funding to address those analyses (Most did not)
        • Have they engaged their communities in the planning for natural disasters (Most did not)
      • Lisbon Case Study
        • Had already done disaster preparation before the study began but they used the campaign to close the gaps and expand funding and partnerships to address disaster preparation
  3. Disaster preparation and resilience NorCal Resilience Network
    • This one was missing
    • Projections for more intense and frequent extreme weather events need to be integrated with disaster and emergency management planning.
      • Extreme weather events are projected to continue increasing in intensity and frequency and we have to start planning for that
    • Contingencies for spare capacity and flexibility to deal with climate hazards occurring simultaneously or in quick succession need to feature in disaster and emergency management planning.
      • Capacity and flexibility are key. We need to stockpile things like PPE to prepare for disasters.
    • Strategic investments in disaster prevention measures, including climate-resilient green infrastructure and updated building codes, will provide significant long-term cost savings and social benefits.
    • Continuous outreach and engagement processes can ensure that citizens prepare for and can respond to climate-related disasters.
      • Outreach, green policies, better building codes, etc will help
    • Raquel’s comments
      • A resilient city is one that is going to change the policies to make sure that the exploitation doesn’t happen again
      • Robust, redundancy
        • Systems are in place to take over during failure
      • Flexibility
        • Refers to the willingness to adapt alternative strategies in response to disasters
      • Resourcefulness
        • An educated population is ready to deal with shocks and stresses and changing circumstances on their own
      • Inclusiveness
        • There needs to be multiple stakeholders involved in building a resilient city
      • Integrated
        • Systems need to be coordinated



This assignment has two parts, make sure you answer both parts in writing.

FIRST: Write down all of the ways in which you understand how global warming and climate change are impacting cities and urban residents. Be as comprehensive and multidimensional as possible.

SECOND: Write down all of the solutions to reduce global warming that you are aware of. Be as comprehensive and multidimensional as possible.