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Public Lecture: Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development

17 April 2019
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The Geological Society, Burlington House
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Natural hazards (e.g., landslides, earthquakes, volcanic events) have a significant impact on lives, livelihoods and economic growth, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable in society and threatening social and economic development progress. 

Conversely, challenges of poverty, inequality, resource consumption and urbanisation all contribute to disaster risk, and must be addressed if we are to ensure resilient and sustainable communities. Disaster risk reduction is therefore at the centre of the UN development agenda and embedded into the Sustainable Development Goals.

This talk will explore the links between disaster risk reduction and sustainable development, through the emerging research theme of ‘multi-hazard’ approaches. Many communities are exposed to multiple natural hazards and anthropogenic processes that contribute to risk. 

These hazards and processes do not always occur independently, but interactions may exist, generating chains or networks of hazards. For example, an earthquake may trigger many landslides, with these blocking rivers and triggering a flood. Understanding these networks of interactions can help to improve disaster preparedness and response. Ignoring these interactions can lead to distorted management priorities, increased vulnerability to other hazards, or underestimation of risk.

The talk will draw on examples from around the world, but particularly focus on the multi-hazard environment of Guatemala, where relevant hazards include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions (and associated hazards, such as ash, lava flows, pyroclastic density currents and lahars), tsunamis, landslides, floods, droughts, ground collapse, tropical storms and hurricanes, extreme temperatures, and wildfires. 

These hazards, together with high exposure and vulnerability of communities, places Guatemala 4th globally in terms of the risk of becoming a disaster victim due to an extreme natural event (World Risk Index, 2017). In this context, multi-hazard approaches were co-developed with Guatemalan agencies responsible for hazard monitoring and civil protection, helping to facilitate cross-disciplinary and cross-organisational dialogue to strengthen disaster risk reduction and response.


Joel C. Gill, International Development Geoscientist (British Geological Survey)

Joel is an interdisciplinary geoscientist, integrating natural and social science methods to address issues relating to sustainable development and disaster risk reduction. During his PhD, Joel developed frameworks to support multi-hazard approaches in Guatemala, continuing to work in the region through his current role in the international development team at the British Geological Survey. 

Joel is also the Founder and Executive Director of the charity Geology for Global Development, and the lead committee member for international development on the Geological Society of London External Relations Committee. He has organised conferences, events and workshops on geoscience and sustainable development in the UK, India, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa. 

Joel has been awarded two teaching prizes by the London School of Economics, and an Associate Fellowship of the Royal Commonwealth Society for his development engagement.

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