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Technological Catastrophes

Technological Catastrophes

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Technological Catastrophes

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  1. Technological Catastrophes Presentation by: Katrine Leung Nadeen Sara Carolyn Torbay

  2. Technological catastrophes • What is the difference between a technological disaster and a natural disaster? • Has anyone lived through a technological disaster? Anyone you know?

  3. Natural disaster and technological catastropheBaum, A., Fleming,I., and Davidson, L.M. (1983) Two Types of disasters: • Natural Disasters • Non-controversial • Cataclysmic event • The result of natural phenomenon; biological • Specific types (i.e. earthquakes, hurricanes) usually occur only in certain areas • Every area is subject to the possibility of natural disasters

  4. Natural disaster and technological catastrophe • Technological Catastrophes • Human made • Accidents, failures, and mishaps • Involve technology

  5. Properties of natural disasters and technological catastrophes • Suddenness • Power • Destructiveness • Predictability • Low point

  6. Natural disasters • Suddenness • Although warning is available, it is still limited and disaster often occurs unexpectedly • Power • Can cause death and great destruction • The threat of a natural disaster is universal • Destruction • Visible damage to environment and property

  7. Natural disasters • Predictability • Forecast is possible but still limited • Low Point • Usually a clear point at which destruction and the worst is over Effects of natural disasters: • Increased social cohesion • Few long-term studies • Generally suggested that victims experience effects such as emotional strain and depression

  8. Technological catastrophes • Suddenness • Can occur at any moment with minimal, if any, warning • Power • Devastation is equal to or possibly exceeds that of natural disasters • Predictability • Technology is not expected to fail and if a problem is foreseeable, it is usually remedied before it has the chance of occurring • Predictability is low

  9. Technological catastrophes • Low Point • Can be identified in cases where there is visible damage but may be more difficult in situations involving invisible damage and continuing threats Effects of technological catastrophes: • Same limitations on research as that of natural disasters

  10. Comparing natural and technological cataclysms • Similar with respect to suddenness, magnitude, and visible destruction of the environment BUT • Technological catastrophes can cause unseen damage and invisible threats

  11. Comparing natural disasters and technological catastrophes In addition, they differ in 3 important respects: • Perception of uncontrollability will be different for each - Natural disasters = lack control and technological catastrophes =loss of control • Confidence in future controllability of technology • Continuing threats

  12. Concluding thoughts • Technological catastrophes have more chronic and widespread effects and are more likely to be long term in nature • Advancements in technology exceed our ability to control them • More research beyond the initial period of impact and recovery is needed • Important to keep the distinction between natural and technological

  13. Davidson, Baum, and Fleming The Three Mile Island Study • Background information: • Occurred in March of 1979 • The incident posed a threat of radioactive exposure to those living within the area of the plant • Threat has remained consistent (piece was written in 1986) • Tests were conducted 28 months after the accident • TMI (Three Mile Island) residents continued to show more symptoms of stress than others in control areas

  14. Stress Selye’s three stage adaptation syndrome known as GAS: • Alarm • Resistance • Exhaustion Lazarus, and the importance of appraisals • Direct action coping • Palliative

  15. The study • 103 subjects • 36 were selected in quasi-random fashion from neighbourhoods within 5 miles of TMI • 27 were selected in towns at least 80 miles away from TMI • 15 living within 5 miles of a coal-fired power plant • Final 25 lived within 5 miles of an undamaged nuclear reactor

  16. Stress measures • Psychological Stress • Behavioural Stress • Physiological Stress

  17. Evidence of stress • Psychological Stress: more intense symptoms than control groups • Behavioural Stress: experienced more trouble with exercises than control groups • Physiological Stress: higher levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine than control groups

  18. Stress and control • Scientists believe that the effects of technological disasters may be different than those associated with natural events • The key may be the reflection of human error • Technological disasters represent loss of control over something that is perceived to be under control • A contributing factor to chronic stress may be the uncertainty of the situation

  19. Conclusions • The data collected on TMI residents suggest that control-related problems aggravate stress responses and associated stress • The residents of TMI do not know if they have been exposed to radiation, yet exhibited stress symptoms for years

  20. Experiencing the environment as hazard R.W. Kates 1976

  21. Group Discussion

  22. Question #1 • How is the stress paradigm (model) applied to explain the reaction of residents of the area surrounding the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor?

  23. Question #2 • What model is proposed to account for environmental hazard? What makes it an interactive model?

  24. Question #3 • What are the similarities and differences between natural disasters and technological catastrophes?

  25. Question #4 • What factors have the authors overlooked that may relate to technological catastrophes?

  26. Question #5 • What role does government play in citizen’s reactions to technological catastrophes?

  27. Love Canal study • Love Canal Chemical Waste Landfill Site • August 2, 1978 • The hazards of abandoned toxic-waste-disposal sites • Toxic vapours in residents basements • Was declared a health emergency • Information was collected on the residents with no other information on groups from other regions for comparisons: - 4000 samples of blood within a few weeks - surveying - 3 questionnaires were distributed

  28. Shared beliefs of Love Canal Homeowners Association • We are blameless victims of a disaster • The problems we face are too large got us. We need help • We are good citizens. We deserve help from the Government • The government can and should help us now • We are being treated unfairly • We must stick together to take care of ourselves • Family and community help is not enough for our needs • No one but the Government has enough resources for our pressing needs • We must work together to force the Government to provide us what we are entitled to • We are the only ones who can understand each other

  29. Summary of findings • By 1981, 500 families had moved away with their houses being purchased by the State • By the summer of 1981, there was no evidence of leaching chemicals effecting Love Canal residents • Within the same year, there was no conclusive findings whether chemicals had migrated to soil beyond the first row of surrounding homes • There was an excessive number of respiratory cancers in the Love Canal census tract compared to the cancers in New York state, however no concentration near the canal itself

  30. Hundreds of lawsuits were filed • Some marital difficulties occurred “If we think of Love Canal as the whistle warning the rest of society about what lies ahead, in one important sense it is already too late, for the physical hazards already exist. However, if we use the warning of Love Canal to prevent or alleviate some of the social consequences that created unnecessary suffering at Love Canal, than perhaps we will have learned something from history and sociology when we face the emergence of new Love Canals all over this land”(219-220) Adeline Gordon Levine Love Canal:Science, Politics, and People

  31. Buffalo Creek Dam Collapse and Flood DisasterLogan County, West Virginia, 1972 • The Disaster On Saturday, February 26, 1972, a dam that was built by a mining company collapsed and emptied gallons of water and sludge into the valley killing 125 people and leaving thousands of others homeless 381 adult plaintiffs and their 207 children filed a lawsuit against the coal company claiming that the dam was constructed in an unsafe manner and that they had suffered “psychic impairment” as a result.

  32. Two sets of psychiatric reports were done 18 and 26 months after the flooding based on interviews and a self-report checklist by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati and the defense psychiatrist. The suit was settled out of court and the plaintiffs were awarded for psychological damages.

  33. The study • Subjects: 121 of original plaintiff group • Control group.non-exposed subjects:drawn from 2 areas: Big Coal River/Marsh Fork Valleys and Cabin Creek Valley that were similar to Buffalo Creek in topography, coal mining activities and cultural/economic backgrounds

  34. The study • Instruments: • Structured clinical Interview for DSM-III (SCID) - diagnostic interview conducted by clinically trained individuals • Psychiatric Evaluation Form - 19 items (i.e. anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and grandiosity) as well as a scale for overall severity. Ratings from 1 to 6 (none to extreme impairment) and were assessed by interviewer

  35. The study • Symptom Checklist-90R (SCL-90R) - 90 item self-report symptom inventory made up of 5 clusters: somatic concerns, obsessive-compulsive problems, anxiety, hostility-irritability, and depression • Progress Evaluation Scales (PES) - set of 7 scales assessing areas of functioning (i.e. occupation, feelings and mood, attitude toward self) on a 5 point scale utilizing behavioural description for each scale point

  36. Results and limitations • There was no difference between litigants and non-litigants; therefore, little long-term impact resulted from participation in the lawsuit • Negative factors may have been offset by the belief that justice was being done by participating in the lawsuit BUT • Unable to determine whether participation in legal proceedings exacerbates symptoms or if it is those with more symptoms that are more likely to sue • Found higher levels of symptoms in exposed groups

  37. Results and limitations • Green notes that we must be cautious when drawing conclusions with this comparison as the control group(s) differed in a number of ways: no African-American subjects, significantly older, more educated, more likely to be employed or retired and more of the women at Buffalo Creek were house wives • Therefore, differences may have been intensified by a limited ability of the Buffalo Creek community to help itself recover

  38. Results and limitations • In addition, the large number of victims and the isolated nature of the event may have impaired social support from non-victim communities • However differences remained significant between the two groups on anxiety, depression, and hostility scales when education and employment were controlled • Persistence of pathology may have been affected by the social and cultural context in which the event occurred • Community described as Appalachian families with homesteads and property that had been in the family for generations

  39. Results and limitations • Small communities sharing histories and a strong sense of interconnectedness • Many born in the house their great grandparents had lived in • Destruction therefore highly disruptive and devastating • Also form a new identity in their shared trauma, which is likely maintained by continuous contact with survivors • New residents moving to the area are seen as outsiders

  40. Results and limitations • West Virginia government’s decision to build a highway up the middle of the valley prevented return to land • Required relocation of many families resulting in the breaking of nuclear families and kin networks

  41. Defining disaster • Defining disaster has been proven difficult: • It can be defined in terms of the damage it causes • It can be defined through disaster agents (Dynes, 1970) PROBLEM - MEANING IS LOST • Measure the degree of social disruption (Quarantelli, 1985) • Disaster may be viewed as a special case of crisis or collective stress situation • Disaster as cataclysmic events (Lazarus and Cohen, 1978)

  42. Disaster characteristics • Horror/Terror • Duration • Intensity • Predictability/Controllability • Warning 2 characteristics of emotional disturbances (Fritz and Marks, 1954) • Primary concern for family members • Horror

  43. Acute response to disaster • Research produces varying findings to effects of disaster on mental health and behaviour • Lack of clear conceptual frameworks to guide research • Individual response • Responses of organizations

  44. Differences between natural and human made disasters • One characteristic of human made disasters is that they often lack visible damage • Loss of control over technological systems and often parties / agencies are to blame • Natural disasters caused by nonsocial forces outside the regulatory control of the group or community, whereas civil disturbances are usually produced by social sources within the community

  45. Natural disasters do not serve human purposes, whereas civil disturbances often do (Warheit, 1976) • Natural disturbances often provide some warning where civil disturbances are more unpredictable hence less warning (Warheit, 1976) • Technological crisis reflect failure in technological systems through 4 categories: • Large system failures • Structural failures • Low - level delayed - effect crisis • Chemical hazards

  46. Characteristics of catastrophes and their psychological effects Human made disasters: • are less familiar to people • Contain possibility of loss of control over technology • Technological mishaps are powerful • Technological mishaps are not supposed to happen • The low point **** • Blame as a reaction to disaster • Ex. Cocoanut Grove fire

  47. Toronto Blackout of 2003 Thursday August 14, 2003 • “Canadians struggle with blackout across Ontario” (News Tribute) • “Toronto Parties through the blackout” (BBC News)

  48. Conclusion