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The governance of disaster risks in megacities – Bath Spa University

The governance of disaster risks in megacities: Before and after Covid-19

Wednesday 17 February, 2021 – Wednesday 17 February, 2021
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM


Please note this event is postponed until further notice. You may still book a place and a new date and time will be confirmed.


Part of the Hazard, Risk and Disaster (HRD) Research Lecture Series 2020-21.

The goal of this presentation is a revised agenda for research on the governance of megacity disaster risks in light of new challenges raised by the Coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 has occurred at a time when societal arrangements for responding to the risks of major disasters in very large cities were already undergoing transformation, driven in part by increasing recognition of the rapidly growing catastrophe potential of massive urban agglomerations and also by the displacement of traditional conceptions of the role of government by insurgent new notions of governance. Since the beginning of the present century there has been a striking increase in the amount of research literature devoted to disaster risk governance, although little of this has addressed the special circumstances of megacities.

Based on an analysis of scholarly and professional papers published since 2010, advances in illuminating the construction and functions of risk knowledge are occurring and several different models of disaster risk governance are emerging. It is clear that researchers have made significant strides toward understanding social vulnerability and social resilience in some types of megacities, but there remain important knowledge gaps that require greater attention if the reduction of disaster risks is to play a role in the creation of sustainable cities. However, the research effort that was intended to support management and governance of megacity risks is currently unbalanced, with more attention being paid to issues of social justice among urban populations than to issues of environmental sustainability and economic welfare, among others.

Added to these findings, the experience of Covid-19 has raised new questions for researchers that challenge existing systems of governance and management in megacities. This lecture will review these trends and disjunctions and explore their implications for the risk, hazard and disaster research community and its professional and lay partners.

About the speaker

James Kenneth (Ken) Mitchell is Emeritus Professor of Geography at Rutgers University (New Jersey, USA). Born in Northern Ireland, educated at Queen's University Belfast, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Chicago, he presently resides in central New Jersey. For more than half a century he has conducted field research on human dimensions of natural hazards in North America, Europe, East Asia and Australia, and authored approximately 150 professional publications. Among other activities, he chaired the National Academy of Science’s ad hoc Committee on the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction and the International Geographical Union’s Study Group on the Disaster Vulnerability of Megacities.

He is a Fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, a member of the International Research Committee on Disasters, and founder of the international journals Global Environmental Change and Environmental Hazards. Ken has also served on science and public policy advisory bodies for hazards, especially in coastal and offshore marine environments, at state and federal levels in the United States and the United Nations system. Commentaries on Ken’s work and that of his students can be found in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of Extreme Events (Vol. 3, No.2). To date he has visited, and sometimes conducted field studies in, the following megacities: New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, London, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Beijing, Shanghai, the Pearl River delta, Bangkok, Manila.

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