COMMUNICATING IGNORANCE – A PRECONDITION FOR DEALING WITH CREEPING DISASTERS?

A. Bleicher & C. Begg, Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, HELMHOLTZ-CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, UFZ, Leipzig, Germany

Abstract

Human activities such as mining, industrial production or military activities have lead to contaminations of soil and groundwater throughout the 20th century. Contaminated areas can be seen as creeping disasters which pose a risk for ecosystems and human health. Due to the fact that knowledge on former dumpsites has often been lost and natural degradation processes transformed original contaminants into new substances it is hardly known when and what exactly will happen. Dealing with such creeping disasters is permanently confronted with (known) unknowns and actors often have to decide in spite of ignorance. A major challenge is achieving awareness and preparedness for potentially unforeseen events over long time.

To date in sociology no concept of preparedness does exist. Based on the analysis of decision making processes in revitalization projects we will discuss a concept of preparedness that is build on the communication about ignorance. Thus preparedness allows the development of coping strategies with creeping disasters. We will show different strategies and media used by actors to create preparedness over long time in society.

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Power Point Presentation

 

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