Natural desasters and their effect on political participation

Natural desasters as cause for community organising

Natural disasters are unparalleled in their capacity to focus the attention of the affected communities on the actions of politicians. In the short-run community organising and volunteerism are essential in coping with the loss of lives and livelihoods. In the long run, citizens expect help and attention from their political representatives. Prior research has demonstrated that some communities are more successful at rebounding after natural disasters than others. In addition to factors like culture, size of the affected community, media attention and its economic power, political participation, at the margin is likely to matter greatly in efforts aimed at warding off future disasters and in attracting funds to deal with the damage caused.

 

Our case study: the Elb region

Twice in the last 14 years the river Elbe and it's tributary streams caused catastrophic floods in large adjacent areas. Economic loss and the destruction of personal property can subsequently never be completely compensated by politics and insurers and represent a significant burden for those affected. The repetition of this disaster shows that even with considerable efforts made future flooding can not be completely excluded.

Public support for reconstruction involves the implicit promise of averting future floods and is associated with greater investments in flood protection infrastructure projects. In contrast to this, an adaptive approach exist; or rather the belief that long-term reconstruction is not the most sustainable solution in each case.

Climate change and the resulting environmental changes are increasingly demonstrating the future limits of human means to control nature, thus is one of the greatest challenges of this century.

The project "Elbe flood" examines using exploratory interviews and other means how citizens' initiatives influence the political decision-making process relating to flood management and to what extent the demands of affected citizens and businesses are congruent with state policy initiatives.