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A Sociological Case for Community Resilience as a Tool to Mitigate the Effects of Natural Disasters Open Access

We live in a time where extreme weather events pose a persistent threat as they increase in volatility. Those who are hit the hardest by natural disasters are the most socially vulnerable populations, presenting a complex challenge. While we often look to technology to solve today’s problems, we underestimate the capacity of the community. When an area is devastated by a drought, hurricane, or earthquake– how can we maximize the power of the people in order to save lives and reduce harm? The concept of community resilience has become a buzzword in a number of disciplines as a potential means to do so. This kind of resiliency goes beyond the engineering of infrastructure and disaster predictor technologies. It is embedded in the individual as well as the group; considered to be a set of capacities that has the possibility of preparing populations for the unimaginable and establishing networks that can speed recovery and relief. By placing this concept within a Sociological framework, we can identify the social factors at play. Social vulnerabilities that will be identified encapsulate social, economic, and the institutional factors. Through empirical research, ways to leverage adaptive capacities to environmental disasters can be understood. This thesis seeks to illuminate vulnerability as a Sociological phenomenon, and to produce an assessment of so-called community resilience that can be utilized by community stakeholders themselves. In maximizing community resilience, localities take on proactive attitudes to disaster planning and management in a way that can engage structures (government and institutions) as well as agents (individual community members). Resilient communities reap the benefits of boosted community outcomes, particularly among underprivileged populations.

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