The Rising Seas – University of Copenhagen

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The Rising Seas

The threats from rising seas are spurred by several different environmental changes, spanning from sudden and unpredictable tsunamis to gradual disasters such as coastal erosion, global warming and recurring seasons of cyclones and hurricanes.

One issue in pertinent need of investigation concerns the temporality of the perceptions of the flooding disasters, i.e. the question of whether the disasters be seen as acute events or as gradual or even cyclical hazards. It has been suggested that from an anthropological perspective disasters should be seen as processes rather than clearly identifiable events, because they are always embedded in social systems unfolding over time. However, by definition, floods provoke immediate reaction, often in the form of hurried displacement, as ‘adaptation' to a life-world under water is not an option. This inherent acuteness of flooding may mislead us to view the rising of the seas as always unforeseen, even though in some parts of the world flooding is a recurring and thus chronic environmental risk, the effects of which people have somehow internalised. Conversely, to some affected communities, it may work as a means of creating certainty to restrict a given hazard of flooding to pertain to specific definite moments in time. On a local level, sudden disasters can turn into chronic conditions, and hazards building up gradually can present themselves as unpredicted events occurring out of the blue.

The social resilience displayed by communities faced with flooding thus implies not only a practical flexibility in getting out of reach of the water, but also a conceptual flexibility in perceiving the temporality or degree of ‘eventness' of the disaster as variable and contingent.

This pillar has the following sub-projects