Natural Hazards and Complex Disasters

This entry reviews key trends in disaster research over the past century, in terms of definitions, causes, impacts, and current practices in dealing with disasters. The second part uses the case of the Nicobar Islands in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and shows how an indigenous, subsistence, island community of hunters and gatherers has been transformed into an aid-dependent, monetary economy embedded in the regional market. The new consumer profile brings in a high potential for social conflict in terms of access to resources and land, leadership, social coherence, family structure, and the need for continued aid flow. The case illustrates the metabolic collapse of an island socioecological system, and reveals the inherent metabolic traps in terms of the islands’ sustainable future, both ecologically and socially, and the role of disaster response in driving them to their biophysical limits as islands in the aftermath.

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