Tag Archives: Risk

InTeGrate: Teaching about Risk and Resilience

An innovative and important workshop – InTeGrate: Teaching about Risk and Resilience – started on Wednesday 14 May 2014, with some sixty higher education teachers,educators and researchers from around the country in attendance. The workshop ends today, Friday 16 May 2014, in Boca Raton Florida.

At 7:30 A.M. the morning before the workshop opening plenary the skies looked menacing with storm clouds, and promising as well.
At 7:30 A.M. the morning before the workshop opening plenary the skies looked menacing with storm clouds, and promising as well.

The workshop and the InTeGrate project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are brainchildren of Dr. Cathryn (‘Cathy’) Manduca, Ph. D. Director of the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.

The Marleen and Harold Forkas Alumni Center was the venue for the InTeGrate workshop 14-16 May 2014

This particular workshop, one of several organized by InTeGrate/SERC, is a collaborative effort of several institutions that are engaged in important research and other activities  related to the central topic of Risk and Resilience. Reflecting such multi-institutional support workshop conveners include the following wonderful, deducated and hard working, individuals: Leonard (‘Len’) Berryof the Florida Center for Environmental Studies (CES), David Blockstein, National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), Cathy Manduca, SERC, Carleton College, Mantha Mehallis, Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and John Taberof IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology). Mary-Beth Hartman of CES/FAU and Monica Bruckner of SERC/Carleton College coordinated  the myriad details of hosting and convening  this event.

The program got off to a good start with a reception and dinner on Wednesday 14 May 2014, at the FAU Alumni  Center, followed by the keynote address by Dr. Leonard Berry. Ph.D., Director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Florida Atlantic University and a Panel Discussion moderated by David Blockstein of NCSE with the following panelists Ricardo A. Alvarez,former Deputy Director, International Hurricane Center, Research Affiliate at the Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Tatjana Hocke-Mirzashvili, James Madison University, and Mark Benthien, Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), University of Southern California.

The panelists were tasked with commenting of Dr. Berry’s Keynote Address, highlighting key concepts and questions to set a foundation for discussions during the following day and a half of workshop plenary sessions and breakout group meetings.

Referring to Len Berry’s keynote Ricardo Alvarez made the following remarks:

“Len has made something that is rather difficult to do appear rather simple and easy by taking what is the complex and wide ranging topic of risk and resilience and in just a few minutes, dissect it into its key concepts and components, to present us rather effectively  with a summary that is relevant and easy to understand. Most of us have difficulty in clearly articulating just one aspect of this topic, while others have written lengthy papers and even books attempting to do the same thing.”

“For me one of the ‘take-home messages’ is that teaching is about transferring actionable knowledge to relevant sectors including, not only scientists and other professionals, but also policy-makers and the general public. Teaching is about progressing from science to application, from research to the implementation of solutions. teaching about risk and resilience is about preparedness in anticipation of expected impacts to our vulnerable communities. We all, as teachers, educators, need to be interpreters of science bringing knowledge to people, to all of us, about places we all understand. Not about global climate change, global warming or global sea level rise, but about how any of these processes may impact our own community, the places where we live and work.”

“Len has highlighted several key principles and concepts for us, including: (a) Risk and vulnerability are shared conditions, so it makes sense for residents of one community to work together toward managing their risk and achieving resiliency; (b) Relative to this a very good local example of collaboration, and working together, is the Four County Climate Change Compact formed by Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties that is a model for the entire nation; (c) Addressing risk and resilience requires an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach, and also a new paradigm for planning, one that is not based on the past but on what the future may bring by way of potential impacts; (d) In some cases we may view resilience almost as a ‘code word’ to be able to discuss ‘politically controversial’ issues, such as sea level rise and climate change, in some sectors or venues. Here Len addresses an ‘ugly truth’ of the climate change, sea level rise, global warming discourse, where ideology or political orientation trump the dialogue and the right of self-expression; (e) Len poses a challenging question: “Does resilience need to increase as risk increases?”; and (f) Perhaps of greater relevancy for purposes of this workshop are Len’s comments about the two cases that will be used to set a foundation for discussion and dialogue during the workshop, which make me think of the effectiveness of a ‘learn-by-doing’ approach where the events described by the case are the ‘doing’ part, something that has been done, that has taken place already, while what we can borrow, copy because it is good, avoid, or adapt from the case, constitutes the ‘learning’. In this sense this is about using real-life practical examples rather than theory. to learn more, to educate ourselves, about risk and resilience, the main topic of this workshop. Thank you Len for inspiring us as we look forward to a productive workshop. Thank you”

Cathy Manduca, SERC and InTeGrate project Director welcomes participants during the opening plenary session
Cathy Manduca, SERC and InTeGrate project Director welcomes participants during the opening plenary session

During the Opening Plenary Session on Thursday 15, May 2014, two case studies were introduced to workshop participants. One was an earthquake scenario presented by Mark Benthien of USC and Keith Porter of SPA Risk LLC. The second case study was a sea level rise scenario presented jointly by Nancy Gassman of Broward County Public Works Division, and Ricardo A. Alvarez of CES/FAU. Dr. Gassman presented (Gassman Teaching Risk and Resilience FAU 05152014) the events described in the case related to flooding, coastal erosion, water-management, seasonal extreme high tides, and the indirect impact of Hurricane Sandy, and the exacerbating aspects of sea level rise in the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ricardo presented (Using Case Studies as Teaching Tools ) on the benefits of using case studies as tools in teaching about risk and resilience, and also identified several specific teaching opportunities offered by the  ‘sea  level rise scenario’ case presented at the workshop.

InTeGrate workshop participants attend the opening plenary session
InTeGrate workshop participants attend the opening plenary session

Discussions about the Fort Lauderdale Sea-level rise case continued during a breakout session moderated by Eileen Johnson of Bowdoin College, with Nancy Gassman and Ricardo Alvarez as panelists and subject-matter experts, and Julie Lambert of FAU acting as session rapporteur, during which panelists and participants engaged in extensive dialogue and Q&A both about scientific and engineering aspects of the case study, and about issues related to teaching about risk and resilience to undergraduates.

On Thursday the post-lunch plenary session moderated by Alana Edwards of FAU was about 'Examples of Incorporating Risk and Resilience into the Curriculum and Across Disciplines
On Thursday the post-lunch plenary session moderated by Alana Edwards of FAU was about ‘Examples of Incorporating Risk and Resilience into the Curriculum and Across Disciplines

Book Announcement!

Front cover of the book Paraiso Protegido by Ricardo A. Alvarez

I am happy to announce the upcoming publication of my book Paraiso Protegido: Hacia una cultura de mitigación, now in press at M.A. Porrúa Publishers in Mexico, which is being co-edited jointly with M.A. Porrúa Publishers and Grupo Quintana Roo.

This work distils empirical knowledge acquired throughout years of studying the impacts of natural hazards, tropical cyclones in particular, upon vulnerable communities and the sequel of damage and human suffering caused by the same. It also offers practical solutions for reducing the potential for damage from the inevitable impacts or recurring hazards.

Specifically, this book gathers lessons from the impacts of hurricanes in Quintana Roo, Mexico, such as hurricane Gilbert (1988) and hurricane Wilma (2005), which at some point reached category 5 strength causing tremendous damage to the region of Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and the Mayan Riviera. Paraiso Protegido is partially based on field work and an impact assessment I directed at the request of Quintana Roo state authorities, shortly after hurricane Wilma’s attack in 2005.

An important contributor to my decision to write this book were my conversations with the president of Grupo Quintana Roo, an organization that represents a leading sector of private business in Quintana Roo state, which made me realize the great need that there is for additional knowledge about the vulnerability of the place, how to manage the risk that it faces, as well as on alternatives for effective solutions to protect human activity and the urban environment, and the considerable investment of effort and capital that it represents.

Although the lessons shared and the examples of impacts and damage are based on events in Quintana Roo, I am convinced that the knowledge and solutions being offered in this book will benefit the many, in other countries, who because of their professions and activities have an interest in risk management, vulnerability assessment and especially in natural hazard mitigation in their respective communities.

Paraiso Protegido is being published in Spanish, but I am happy to announce that work toward a future English edition, which may include a digital version, is already in progress. I am committed to keeping you all informed about how these projects are progressing through postings on this site mitigate.com !

You can reserve your copy of Paraiso Protegido by stating your interest and requesting information via email to: ricardoalfonso@comcast.net

Back cover of book