The value of recognising ‘extreme events’ in environmental management

‘Natural disasters’, of which flooding, wildfire and volcanic eruption are often quoted causes, is a concept surely well past its ‘sell-by’ date. We increasingly understand that there is a strong human dimension to all these extreme events, inasmuch as man’s interaction with the environment through urbanisation, agriculture and global warming can often exacerbate their magnitude and frequency. But through the use of science we can seek to predict their occurrence, and reduce their impact to the communities involved through better communication and preventative management. The UN has been developing and implementing an ‘International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’ since 1999. Its Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is the main vehicle for executing the strategy and last month promoted a major international conference in Cancun, Mexico. Many publications were launched at the conference including a comprehensive assessment of the place of science in disaster risk management, from a European perspective. It was collated, edited and published under the direction of the European Commission Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre. The full report can be accessed HERE. It is divided into three parts: understanding disaster risk, communicating disaster risk and managing disaster risk, forming a “bridge concept” for the report. Andy Moffat was pleased to be asked to contribute to the chapter on wildfire risk.