Friday, November 05, 2010

Disaster and its dimensions

Herewith the video version of Disaster and Its Dimensions: Legal Responses to Distortions in Time and Space, the opening keynote address to the Twelfth Annual Northeast Florida Environmental Summit, held at the Florida Coastal School of Law:

I also invite you to watch the entire video proceedings of the conference:


Blogger Patrick S. O'Donnell said...


I've only listened (and watched) your presentation thus far but it was absolutely delightful, very informative and provacative, with much food for thought, apart from the disturbing truths you made so vividly plain (e.g., the mental heuristics and cognitive biases stuff and what it will take to make climate change a real cause for concern among all of us).

Several things for now: I've always said "accidents happen for reasons" and this causes no end of controversy in our household. I'm happy to now have an authority to cite in my favor.

Relatedly, the remark about "natural" disasters was exquisite: I wonder if we can come up with a catchy term to replace this phrase. Sen's seminal work on famines has gone a long way toward helping us see precisely how these are NOT "natural" but very much the result of human actions ('inaction' here being species of and parasitic on action). A few intriguing remarks on the integral interdependence of the "social" and the "natural"--as "my environment"--are found in Sartre's Being and Nothingness (1943):

"I wish to arrive on my bicycle as quickly as possible at the next town. This project involves my personal ends, the appreciation of my place and of the distance from my place to the town, and the free adaptation of means (efforts) to the end pursued. But I have a flat tire, the sun is too hot, the wind is blowing against me, etc., all phenomena which I had not forseen: these are the environment. Of course they manifest themselves in and through my principal project; it is through the project that the wind can appear as a head wind or as a 'good' wind, through the project that the sun is revealed as a propitious or an inconvenient warmth."

Elsewhere, and more to the point, Sartre writes that "It is recognize that destruction is an essentially human thing and that IT IS man who destroys his cities through the agency of earthquakes or directly, who destroys his ships through the agency of cyclones or directly." Again, it is through man that "fragility comes into being," "it is man who renders cities destructible," and so forth and so on.

Is your talk available in print form for download? Is this part of a forthcoming paper?

11/06/2010 2:11 AM  
Blogger Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/06/2010 2:11 AM  
Blogger Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

Please delete the redundancy (I'm not sure how that happened).

And of course it's "provocative."

11/06/2010 2:17 AM  

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