Social Impact of Natural and Manmade Disasters

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

This interdisciplinary course focuses on natural and human-initiated disasters and their impact on human life. We will explore how social dynamics such as culture, inequality and social structure influence vulnerability and shape how people face, respond, recover, or fail to recover from disasters, and examine as well how the media impacts the development of empathy or apathy towards disaster-affected people.

What is a disaster and how do the two broadest categories—natural and manmade disasters—differ from one another? What are the impacts of disasters on those affected by them and on those engaged, or not engaged, in relief efforts? Through this course, students will learn the basic terminology and concepts related to disasters, recognize local and global organizations involved in disaster relief programs, and understand the social, psychological, and economic impacts of disasters on humans and their social environment. Students will also develop an understanding of the role social media can play in creating empathy or apathy for certain populations. We will look at the ways in which disaster relief often becomes the means for advancing political agendas and how they surface a variety of global issues such as immigration, migration, refugee populations and human trafficking.

Current national and international disasters will be included as case studies including the drought and famines of the late 1900’s (Chinese, North Korea, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh), earthquakes/tsunamis from the early 2000’s (Indonesia, Chile, Japan, and Haiti), hurricanes/floods/tornados (Galveston; Katrina; Matthew; Sandy; Joplin, Missouri; and Moore, Oklahoma), war (Syrian civil war, South Sudanese civil war), and nuclear events (Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania; Chernobyl).

The instructor of this course has been the Principal Investigator of the Department of Homeland Security Disaster Coastal Hazard and Resilience Education Project for the last ten years. She developed and managed curriculum and projects related to natural disasters and is also partnered with several universities - including the University of Rhode Island (URI), Coastal Resilience and Extension Center, a local resource for the course.

Prerequisites: The course will benefit students interested in a variety of fields such as engineering, health related professions, chemistry, biology, public policy, administration, homeland security, public service majors or careers, and disaster management. There are no formal prerequisites beyond interest in the topic.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CESO0943
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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