- Temporal vulnerability in hazardscapes: flood memory-networks and referentiality along the North Carolina Neuse River (USA)
- Global Environmental Change
- Volume | Issue number
- 21 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Social models of population vulnerability to disasters increasingly include the notion that vulnerability has a strong temporal component. While this temporality is typically conceptualized as objective (making vulnerability "dynamic," "multiscalar," and/or "historical"), it consistently fails to acknowledge that among stakeholders managing hazardscapes temporality is also a social process in which subjective experience of time may play a role in creating situations of population vulnerability. This paper proposes that the temporal situatedness of a population relative to past hazard events and the quality with which stakeholders engage hazard memory-chains combine to significantly influences its vulnerability to natural hazards. It is proposed that this temporal vulnerability is characterized by shared, population level potential for surprise and can be evaluated by exploration of time-series depth and temporal reference points in historical ecological narratives and documents. Based on ethnohistoric research conducted from 2002 to 2006 in flood-prone eastern North Carolina (USA), it is illustrated how temporal vulnerability was relatively higher in the Neuse River watershed located at the City of Kinston than surrounding watersheds. Due to the combination of factors including the damming of the Neuse River in the 1980s, outdated official floodplain maps, relatively unmonitored floodplain development, the stochastic timing of flood events (placing the last major flood more than a generation away), technological optimism, and turnover of floodplain officials and residents, local stakeholders were seriously misinformed about the space-time risks involved both before and after the disaster of Hurricane Floyd (1999) happened. To deal with this inconsistency, the temporal rarity of Hurricane Floyd as a "500-year event" has been motivated and embraced by many in an effort to continue life-as-is. The paper proposes that the concept of temporal vulnerability is further explored and used as key dimension in the vulnerability sciences.
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