Disaster: Recipes and Remedies

17th Social Research Conference November 1-2, 2007


This conference is convened at a time in which we are seriously threatened by an increasing number of disasters of all kinds: those conventionally considered "natural," like hurricanes and tsunamis, and those normally considered man-made, like pandemics and large-scale bio-terrorist attacks. The need for serious reflection on how we can best think about, prepare for, respond to and prevent disasters is urgent. At this conference, leading experts will explore the commonalities of all disasters. They will examine the unequal protection and treatment of populations made vulnerable by their location and/or socioeconomic status; the impact of disasters on the economy and overall human development; how hazards develop into disasters; and how design factors either mitigate or amplify their effects.


This conference is supported by Parsons School of  Design at The New School, Eugene Lang College at The New School, The New School for Social Research, and The New School Office of the Provost.


To order the related issue of Social Research: An International Quarterly

Disaster: Recipes and Remedies, Vol. 75, No. 3 (Fall 2008)



Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Session I: Definitions: What We Talk About When We Talk About Disasters

Scientific Perspectives on Disasters: Physical Sciences

Michael Oppenheimer, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs; Director, Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University


Scientific Perspectives on Disasters: Biological Science

Eric K. Noji, Chief of Epidemiology, Surveillance, Emergency Response in Office of Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response, CDC; Senior Medical and Public Health advisor, White House Office, Homeland Security


Thinking Possibilistically in a Probabilistic World

Lee Clarke, Anschutz Distinguished Fellow, Princeton University; Author, Worst Cases


Pre-Conditions of Disasters

John Mutter, Deputy Director/Associate Vice Provost, The Earth Institute, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and International and Public Affairs, Columbia University


Discussion Between Speakers, then Discussion with Audience

Session Moderator: Jonathan Veitch, Dean, Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts 

Session II - Acquiring Vulnerabilities that Potentiate Disasters

Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorists Disasters

Charles Perrow, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Yale University Differential Vulnerabilities


Environmental and Economic Inequality

Robert Bullard, Ware Professor of Sociology; Director, Environmental Justice Resource Center, Clark Atlanta University


Biological and Health Vulnerabilities

Irwin Redlener, Associate Dean, Public Health Advocacy and Preparedness; Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; President, The Children's Health Fund


The Politics of Infrastructure

Joseph W. Westphal, System Professor, Professor of Political Science, University of Maine; Former Head,

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Discussion Between Speakers, then Discussion with Audience

Session Moderator: Ronald Kassimir, Associate Provost, Associate Professor of Political Science, The New School for Social Research

Session III - Keynote Address


Nicholas Scoppetta, New York City Fire Commissioner, followed by Q & A with Bob Kerrey, President of The New School.


Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Session IV - What "Really" Happens When Disasters Happen

Preparations and Responses The Calculus of Risk vs. Preparedness

Erwann Michel-Kerjan, Managing Director, Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania


Overcoming Denial to Increase Rational Preparation and Response to Danger

Elliot Aronson, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of California at Santa Cruz; Author


The Social Animal and Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) Conventional Beliefs and Counterintuitive Realities

Enrico L. Quarantelli, Founding Director, Disaster Research Center; Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware


The Role of Insurance Companies

Howard Kunreuther, Cecilia Yen Koo Professor; Professor of Decision Sciences and Business and Public Policy Co-Director, Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


Discussion Between Speakers, then Discussion with Audience

Session Moderator: Joel Towers, Director, Sustainable Design and Urban Ecology, Parsons the New School for Design 

Session V - The Impact of Disasters on Human Development

Global Disaster Impacts: Implications and Policy Responses, Patterns and Trends, Role of Climate Change, and Means to Reduce Disaster Risks

Reid Basher, Coordinator, Policy, United Nations Strategy for Disaster Reduction Disasters by Design


Blaming Nature for Political Failures

Michael A. Cohen, Director, Graduate Program in International Affairs, The New School for General Studies


Impact on the Formal and Informal Economies

Dean Yang, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Michigan


Impact on Infrastructure

William Morrish, Elwood R. Quesada Professor of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban and Environmental Planning, School of Architecture, University of Virginia


Impact on Health

Robert Ursano, Professor, Chair of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland


Discussion Between Speakers, then Discussion with Audience
Session Moderator: Lee Clarke, Anschutz Distinguished Fellow, Princeton University; Author, Worst Cases

Eugene Lang College Student Panel on Disasters
Students will present research on disasters and public perspectives. This additional, free event is made possible with collaboration from professors in the Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. Small reception to follow.

Saturday, November 3, 2007
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting a special, customized tour of artistic representations of disasters from the museum's collection.


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