Environmental Hazards

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



decision making, disaster, false sense of security, geophysical forces, hazard definition, mitigation, resilience, spatial trends, temporal trends, vulnerability

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



This article examines geophysical and human aspects of environmental hazards, integrating perspectives from the physical and social sciences to explain those principles that enhance our understanding of physical, social, technical, political, and economic forces inherent to disasters. Spatial and temporal trends are discussed to explain why, in spite of ever-increasing investments in mitigation projects, losses from natural hazards continue to rise. Conceptually, hazards research has moved the rhetoric from one concerned purely with natural phenomena and the technological fix, to one that pays attention to human processes, specifically the complex web of social, political, and economic forces. A common theme throughout is human vulnerability and the role this plays in exacerbating or ameliorating the effects of disasters. Vulnerability is a human-induced situation that results from public policy and resource availability or distribution, and is the root cause of disaster impacts. Research demonstrates that marginalized groups invariably suffer in disasters, with higher levels of vulnerability correlated with higher levels of poverty, with the politically disenfranchised, and with those excluded from the mainstream of society.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Environmental Hazards, in R. Kitchin & N. Thrift (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Elsevier, p. 521-527