Geographia Polonica (2003) vol. 76, iss. 2

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Natural and human factors in environmental disasters

Herman Th. Verstappenen

Geographia Polonica (2003) vol. 76, iss. 2, pp. 175-184

Abstract

The world is approaching limits of growth and consequently facing de-pletion of natural resources and widespread environmental degradation. The sustainabili-ty of many present economic activities is problematic and the interaction between humani-ty and environment more crucial than ever. The critical situation is recognized in scientific and engineering circles and by decision makers at all levels. Creeping hazards and related disasters, such as land degradation and desertification, are on the rise and instantaneous environmental disasters are of growing concern too. Natural hazards of exogenous origin, such as floods and landslides, have natural as well as human causes while those of endoge-nous origin, such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, have natural causes only. How-ever, the disasters associated with hazards of any kind are particularly severe in densely po-pulated regions and in areas more vulnerable to extreme events because of environmental and/or economic marginality. Extreme events are most effective as a destructive element where environmental degradation has been provoked by inappropriate land utilization. Climatic changes and lack of awareness and preparedness are aggravating factors. Modern scientific concepts and emerging powerful technologies provide new tools for addressing the problem of balancing human needs and environmental equity.

Keywords: aerospace technology, creeping disasters, disaster mitigation, early warning, extreme events, hazard zoning, natural disasters, susteinability, vulnerability

Herman Th. Verstappenen, International Institute of Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Hengelosestraat 99, POBox 6, 7500AA Enschede, The Netherlands