Plenary 6: The 'Human Factor' in Environmental Disasters

This session will review the various aspects of human involvement in environmental disasters. It will include the ways in which humans have caused environmental changes; what the effects of the disasters will be on rural and urban populations; and what people can do to mitigate the damage caused by natural hazards.

Moderator:

Andrew Revkin: Andrew Revkin has joined Pace University as a senior fellow for environmental understanding. A prize-winning journalist, online communicator and author, he has spent a quarter of a century covering subjects ranging from the assault on the Amazon to the Asian tsunami, from the troubled relationship of science and politics to climate change at the North Pole. From 1995 through 2009, he covered the environment for The New York Times.

While the media largely ignored the climate story until the last several years, Revkin spent more than 20 years immersed in this subject, producing more than 500 magazine and newspaper stories, two books, a prize-winning Discovery-Times documentary, “Arctic Rush,” and hundreds of posts on his blog. His reporting on the politic struggles over climate policy consistently led all competitors. In 2005 and 2006, he exclusively exposed efforts by political operatives to rewrite government climate reports in the White House and prevent NASA scientists from conveying their views on warming. His stories were quickly followed by the resignations of two presidential appointees.

He has been a pioneer in multimedia journalism, blogging, podcasting, and shooting still and video imagery for stories from far-flung places. One of his pictures, of a scientist trudging in darkness and a blizzard on the North Slope, won an Award of Excellence in the Pictures of the Year International competition in 2005. In October 2007, Revkin created Dot Earth, a Times blog on climate, development and the environment (nytimes.com/dotearth). He tweets @revkin. He has also carried his journalism to a new generation. Revkin’s most recent book is The North Pole Was Here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World (Kingfisher, 2006), the first account of global and Arctic climate change written for the whole family. The Washington Post concluded simply: “Bundle up and read.” It was named both an outstanding science book and social studies book by the Children’s Book Council.

Revkin has written two other books. The Burning Season (1990; 2004 updated edition, Island Press) chronicles the life of Chico Mendes, the slain leader of the movement to save the Amazon rain forest. The prize-winning book was published in 10 languages, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and was the basis for the prize-winning HBO film of the same name, starring Raul Julia and directed by John Frankenheimer. Revkin also wrote Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast (1992), which accompanied the first museum exhibition on climate change, created by the American Museum of Natural History. The Los Angeles Times said the book “takes a devastatingly quiet tone that proves far more effective than the bludgeon-the-reader-with-guilt brand of environmental journalism.” He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship to help shape his next book, an exploration of ways to smooth the path toward more or less 9 billion people.

In 2008, he became the first science writer to receive one of journalism’s top honors, the John Chancellor Award, for more than two decades of pioneering coverage of the science and politics of global warming. His work has won most of the top honors in science journalism, including the National Academy of Sciences Communication Award and two awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His first magazine feature, on the worldwide death toll from misuse of the herbicide Paraquat, won an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He has been honored in academia for his sustained focus on climate and energy, receiving an honorary doctorate from Pace University, a Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts, and the 2007 Sol Feinstone Environmental Award from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Before joining The Times, Revkin was a senior editor of Discover, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, and a senior writer at Science Digest. He has contributed freelance articles to the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, AARP’s magazine, Conde Nast Traveler and many other publications. Revkin has a biology degree from Brown, a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia, has taught at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and the graducate center for environmental policy at Bard College. He has written two book chapters on journalism and the environment.

He lives in the Hudson River Valley with his wife and one of his two sons. One of his passions is music. A 1997 Times article on a heavy-metal band’s quest to replace its lead singer was the basis for “Rock Star,” a 2001 feature film starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. In spare moments, he is a performing songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who occasionally accompanies Pete Seeger at regional shows and plays in a folk-blues band, Uncle Wade (myspace.com/unclewade ).

 Discussants:

David Kaufman: David J. Kaufman was appointed Director of FEMA's Office of Policy and Program Analysis (OPPA) in September 2009. In this position he is responsible for providing leadership, analysis, coordination, and decision-making support to the FEMA Administrator on a wide range of Agency policies, plans, programs, and key initiatives.

Mr. Kaufman has extensive experience with homeland security and disaster preparedness issues. He has been a member of the faculty at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, where he has taught in the Center’s graduate and executive level education programs, and has previously served in several senior positions in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and in FEMA.

His previous service included establishing the Office of Preparedness Policy, Planning and Analysis in FEMA's National Preparedness Directorate, where as the Director he led policy and planning efforts for national preparedness; and Acting Director and Deputy Director of the Preparedness Programs Division in the Office for Domestic Preparedness.

In 2008, Mr. Kaufman left government service to become Safety and Security Director for CNA, a non-profit think-tank that provides analysis and solutions to challenging problems for all levels of government, where he worked on a range of homeland security issues including community engagement, risk management, and catastrophic planning, and supported the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.

 

Gerald Galloway: Gerry Galloway is a Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering, and an Affiliate Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, where his focus is on water resources and energy policy and management and disaster mitigation.  He has led large organizations and has broad experience in dealing with water management issues both within the United States and internationally. He has served as a consultant to the Executive Office of the President, the US Water Resources Council, the World Bank, the Organization of American States, and the UN World Water Assessment Programme.  He is a member of the Louisiana Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation, a Department of State Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Fellow, and a consultant to Natural Heritage Institute Team reviewing dams and climate change in the Mekong Basin.  He served for seven years as a member of the Mississippi River Commission and was assigned to the White House to lead the study of the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1993. A veteran of 38 years of military service, he retired from the military as a Brigadier General. He is a professional engineer, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

 

James Kendra: Dr. James Kendra is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration and Director of the Disaster Research Center. Previously he was coordinator of the Emergency Administration and Planning Program in the Department of Public Administration at the University of North Texas.

His research interests focus on individual and organizational responses to risk, improvisation and creativity during crisis, post-disaster shelter and housing, and planning for behavioral health services.  Projects have included research on the reestablishment of New York City’s emergency operations center after the 9/11 attacks, a major study of the waterborne evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11, research on the social impacts of the Indian Ocean tsunami, and research on the organization of disaster behavioral health services.

Dr. Kendra has participated in several quick response disaster reconnaissance trips, including the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, 2003 Midwest tornadoes, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and Hurricane Ike in 2008, as well as documenting  maritime relief efforts in the US following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. He has been involved in several emergency planning and exercise efforts, and he is a Certified Emergency Manager. He graduated from Massachusetts Maritime Academy with a degree in marine transportation, and served several years at sea, attaining a Master Mariner license. His master’s degree is in geography from the University of Massachusetts, and his PhD is in geography from Rutgers University. He is a member of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, with interests in boating safety and public education.

 

Kathleen Tierney: Kathleen Tierney is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Institute of Behavioral Science and Director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder.  The Natural Hazards Center (http://www.colorado.edu/hazards), which is funded by the National Science Foundation and a consortium of federal agencies whose missions center on disaster risk reduction, serves as a national and international clearinghouse on the social scientific and policy aspects of disasters.  During her career she has studied a wide range of disaster events, including earthquakes in the U. S. Japan, and Haiti; major hurricanes such as Hugo, Andrew, and Katrina; various technological disasters, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York City.  Her published work  spans many topics, including hazard risk perceptions, disaster warnings, organizational responses to disasters, disaster recovery, social vulnerability to disasters, and the political economy of disasters.  She is widely published in the Annual Review of SociologyInternational Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, Annals of the American academy of Political and Social Science, Sociological Forum, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, Journal of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, American Prospect, and many other journals.  She is senior author of Facing the Unexpected: Emergency Preparedness and Response in the United States (Joseph Henry Press 2001) and co-editor of Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Government (International City and County Management Association 2007).  She is currently working on a book entitled Social Foundations of Risk and Resilience

Tierney has served as a member of the National Academies Committee on Disaster Research in the Social Sciences, Panel on Strategies and Methods for Climate-Related Decision Support, and Panel on Informing Effective Decisions and Actions Related to Climate Change. She is currently a member of the Committee to Advise the U. S. Global Change Research Program. She serves on the steering committee of the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on Climate Change and on the board of directors of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and she is co-editor of the Natural Hazards Review. She received the Distinguished Lecturer Award in 2006 from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and in 2012 she received the Fred Buttel Award for Distinguished Contributions from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Environment, Technology, and Society. Tierney teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on the sociology of disasters and graduate courses on qualitative research methods.