Disaster, Security, and Governance MAGG Spring 2014 Bin Xu Assistant Professor Florida International University
Security and Psychological and Cultural Factors • Risk perception and policy implications. Worst Cases (Lee Clarke) • Panic
1st Dimension of a worst case • Inconceivable: the case overpowers our imagination by: • Death tolls • Devastation • But they are called “worst cases” not because of the objective facts but through a comparison to a template of similar cases.
Death toll? • 9/11 attacks: about 3,000 • The Tangshan earthquake in China: 240,000 • Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989: 62 • The Haiti earthquake in 2010: 316,000 • The Challenger explosion in 1986: 7
The Deadliest Earthquakes in History Source: USGS (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/most_destructive.php)
Inconceivable coincidence • Japan’s triple disaster in 2011: • An earthquake with 9.0 on Lichter scale • A tsunami that killed about 18,000 people • The 2nd largest nuclear accident in history
2nd Dimension of Worst Cases • Uncontrollable: the outcome of the disaster cannot be controlled by us • Comparison: • “Normal” car accident casualties (40,000 on American highways) but not the “worst case” • Several 18-wheel trucks carrying chemicals crash into each other on a highway
3rd Dimension of Worst Cases • Social identification: one judges whether a disaster is the worst case by his/her social identification with the place and the victims • E.g.: the same country; same historical period • The small industry about Hurricane Katrina but not others. (Comparison: Beichuan High School in the Sichuan earthquake, China: 1,200)
A Riskier World: Two Trends Contributing to More Worst Cases • Globally relevant disasters • Think about the disasters we’re discussing: which one is NOT globally relevant? • Near-earth objects (NEOs): a Tunguska-class object in Manhattan? • Influenza
A Riskier World: Two Trends Contributing to More Worst Cases • Concentration and interdependence • Population growth and concentrates in dangerous areas. • Interdependence among different parts of the social system: e.g. a massive blackout; an Internet virus/hacker; food industry; chemical plants
There’s nothing to fear but fear itself? • Paranoid? • Probabilistic thinking: • Disasters are cases of small probabilities. • Claim that probabilistic thinking is based on scientific rationality. • Neglect the small probability cases to maintain your mental health.
Problems with probabilistic thinking • Disasters are not normally distributed; always odd, rare, but cannot be neglected. Think about the following scenario: A plane from MIA crashes into the nuclear facilities in FloridaTheKeys residents and tourists had no way to evacuatea hurricane hits Miami A real-world scenario: a historic earthquake offshore Japana tsunami that devastated Sendainuclear facilities meltdown in Fukushima
An everyday example • Why do you buckle up your seatbelt when you drive?
An everyday example Probabilistic thinking: You don’t need. Accidents are rare and often not lethal. Possibilistic thinking (worst case thinking): For YOU, probability doesn’t make sense! 0 OR 1 ONE serious accident without fastened seatbelt is bad enough for you.
Political Uses of Probabilism • Justify the danger within a system or a risky project: Think about: “Is it OK to build a plant that produces toxic chemicals in a residential area since explosion is very unlikely?” • Use numbers (and experts/ “scientific research”) to justify them • Equate probabilism to rationality and reason • Probabilism tends to protect the powerful.
The Shell Game of Probabilism • “Risk communication”: an organized effort by corporations, governments, and experts to convince people at risk there’s minimum risk. • Principles of “risk communication” • People are irrational and emotional, but CEOs are not. • Risks are always minimum; deceptions are protections.
What the author does NOT suggest • The author does NOT suggest that probabilistic thinking is completely wrong. • Instead, probabilistic thinking could be wrong in some situations; we cannot ALWAYS think in a probabilistic way.
Why is worst case scenario useful? • Use worst case scenario (what if) to design better projects and machines E.g. Vehicle safety: What if the car rolls over? E.g. Earthquake-resistant houses: What if we have a 9-magnitude earthquake? • Use simulation to be prepare for the worst cases
Proposed Solutions • Use possibilistic thinking (think about 0 or 1 not percentage) in designing and protecting critical infrastructures • Infrastructures in the traditional sense (electrical grid, nuclear facilities, dams, etc.) • Critical social infrastructures (schools)
Proposed Solutions • Preemptive resilience: A bottom-up , citizen-based, and local responses; empower local communities and informal organizations • Use counterfactual wisely to design projects and infrastructure • Fundamentally, NO HUBRIS; live with the nature instead of abuse the nature.
Do people panic? • People RARELY (NOT never) panic even in disasters
Panic Myths • Excessive fear • Irrational behaviors • Self-interest over regard for others
Lee Clarke’s short speech about panic http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R2yhWstuG0
Mutual helping • AA 1420 flight incident in 1999 • Share limited resources • Altruism
Why are there the myths? • They fit into our (wrong) perceptions of human nature; an easy explanation of bad results: • Individuals • Self-interested • Irrational
When do people really panic? • Physical conditions (e.g. inadequate exists) deteriorate into a worst case situation • Solution: not to use guns to keep order but to redesign our facilities and perfect our response system
The Myth of Looting (Tierney et al) • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RVHDlPqZWE
Views of Sociologists • Consensus crisis • Looting is unusual, sporadic in disasters • In very few cases, large-scale looting happens: • Severe damages • Ineffective relief • No idea when the aids will come
Media Representations of Looting • From The New York Times: • August 31: “These are not individuals looting. These are large groups of armed individuals.” • . . . “Looting broke out as opportunistic thieves cleaned out abandoned stores for a second night. In one incident, officials said a police officer was shot and critically wounded.” (Treaster and Kleinfield 2005) • September 1: “Chaos gripped New Orleans on Wednesday as looters ran wild . . . Looters brazenly ripped open gates and ransacked stores for food, clothing, television sets, computers, jewelry, and guns.” (McFadden and Blumenthal 2005)
Media Representations of Looting • From The Washington Post: • August 31: “Even as the floodwaters rose, looters roamed the city, sacking department stores and grocery stories and floating their spoils away in plastic garbage cans. . . . • Looting began on Canal Street, in the morning, as people carrying plastic garbage pails waded through waist-deep water to break into department stores. In drier areas, looters raced into smashed stores and pharmacies and by nightfall the pillage was widespread.” (Gugliotta and Whoriskey 2005)
Why did the looting image matter? • False message • Militarized response
Issues • Not adequate data due to methodological issues • The phrase “media distortion” should be more carefully used