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Epilogue: Flood Risk and Social Justice

Epilogue: Flood Risk and Social Justice

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Published by Tom Cheetham
Flood Risk and Social Justice:
From Quantitative to Qualitative Flood Risk Assessment and Mitigation
Zoran Vojinovic and Michael B. Abbott
Flood Risk and Social Justice:
From Quantitative to Qualitative Flood Risk Assessment and Mitigation
Zoran Vojinovic and Michael B. Abbott

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Published by: Tom Cheetham on Apr 09, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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As the title of the epilogue to his best-known and most popular book,
, SørenAabye Kierkegaard, as 'the father of existentialism', used the word
.This word is coming back with vengeance today as the warnings of the destruction of the Earth'secosystem and the menaces of global warming and climate change pile up alongside the deprivation of ever more persons, deprivations that are now penetrating into the lives of an increasing number of peopleof European descent who not long ago could identify themselves with 'The First World'. These warningsthat have now become realities in an increasing number of minds are associated with an ever-more cogentnumber of writings that are essentially just that:
.In a lecture delivered by HRH The Prince of Wales on 8 July 2010, and reproduced in the
Temenos Academy Review
of 2010 ( No. 13, pp.9-22), its most cogent observation (p.12) was posed as follows:
That earlier shift, away from seeing ourselves within Nature to us standing apart from it, graduallyundermined
what I have always felt, deep down, to be the true situation ─ that if we wish to maintain our 
civilizations then we must look after the Earth and actively maintain its many intricate states of balance sothat it achieves the necessary active state of harmony which is the prerequisite for the health of everythingin creation. In other words, that which sustains us must be sustained, and I am afraid that I have come to theunavoidable conclusion that we are failing to do that. We are not keeping to our side of the bargain and,
consequently, the sustainability of the entire harmonious system is collapsing ─ in failing the Earth we are
failing Humanity...
As our world moves to its forecast of 80 percent of our populations living in cities
 ─ and even facing the
arrogance of those who can so-
accurately predict an '81 percent' ─ the consequ
ences of an ecosystem thatis moving ever more rapidly to a state of total disintegration in so much of our world appear as toodreadful to contemplate. The risks of flooding of our cites is a direct function of the states of ourecosystems, and these risks are becoming incalculable. And so we come to an
(ibid, p. 22)which we may perhaps be allowed to share (with our italics added):
We are, Ladies and Gentlemen, as I said at the beginning, at an historic moment ─ because we face a future
where there is a real prospect that if we fail the Earth, we fail Humanity. To avoid such an outcome, whichwill comprehensibly destroy our children's future, we must urgently confront the issues and make thechoices which carry monumental implications. In this, we are the masters of our fate....On the one hand, we have every good reason to believe that carrying on as we are will lead to a depletedand divided planet, incapable of meeting the needs of its nine billion citizens, let alone sustaining its otherlife forms. On the other hand, we can adapt our technologies, our lifestyles, and, crucially,
our way of thinking and perceiving the world 
so as to transform our relationship with the Earth that sustains us. Thechoice is certainly clear to me.
The thrust of the present book has been that this tectonic shift
 ─ of 
adapting our way of thinking and  perceiving he world 
will not happen as and by itself, but has to be explained, nurtured and introducedin such a way that the decision--making processes, and especially in the field of urban flood risk, have tobe placed in the hands of those who care most directly, and indeed in many cases care passionately, about
the consequences of interventions in their local, and often even more global, living spaces and ecosystems
and the consequent influences on their qualities of life. These persons must become the new decisionmakers in our societies, even if in some cases they may appear to some as 'decision makers of last resort'.We have tried to explain how the hydroinformatician has a vital role to play in bringing this mode of decision-making to presence, and indeed how this process provides a paradigm, or at the very least aprovisional template, of the tasks of the hydroinformatician. The construction of hydroinformaticsenvironments, as information providers of virtual worlds using all the resources of the current and futureinformation and communication technologies and practises, is the new task of such a hydroinformatician.These concepts are illustrated with colour and dynamics in the web site that is dedicated to the contents of this book: www.urbanhydroinformatics.com. This web site includes a reference to several of our fellowcreatures here on Earth and what we owe to them, even as we so often misuse them.It would be naive not to see that the means and the processes that are being promulgated in this book mustarouse opposition in many quarters, where they will be seen as subversive in the eyes of many present-day engineers and scientists, who prefer Panglossian recommendations and simple solutions whereby "allis for the best in the best of all possible worlds". For the most part, albeit with a few honourableexceptions, these experts prefer to ignore how Voltaire demonstrated the disenchantments that the youngCandide was obliged to suffer by holding to such illusions, as they were propagated by his mentor,Monsieur Pangloss. We should have no illusions concerning the opposition that this book will encounterin some circles, even as our experience to date has been that the its new (for most readers) paradigm willbe taken up by those in the hydroinformatics community, and many more in other fields besides, who willsee in this the only way forward if we are to maintain any kind of social justice in our lives and ourcommunities, and thus play our own part in saving our own and our children's lives and 'our' planet.As explained at various points in the book, the kinds of processes that occur within a group of activestakeholders working within a hydroinformatics environment provide the members of the group with themeans to attain to higher levels of consciousness, even as these in turn mutate into a higher levels of conscientiousness during the process. Thus these participants in the joint effort come to
transcend themselves
through this process in which they are active participants, and then, when we observe this aswe do, we must return to one of the aphorisms given in the body of the book itself, where we refer to:
... H. H. John Paul II himself, where (1994, p 104) he echoed a theme that also passed from Kierkegaard toJaspers, and further again to the great Jewish thinker, Emmanuel Levinas (e.g. 1995/2006), namely that
“Man, perhaps subconsciously, waits for such a challenge, indeed, man feels the inner need t
o transcendhimself. Only by transcending himself does man become fully human (cf. Blaise Pascal,
, Ed.
Brunschvicg, (1670/1953) p 434, “apprenez que l’homme passe infinement l’homme'' [// “understand thatthe man infinitely surpasses the man”])”.
It is on the authority of these witnesses and for the purposes of the present book that
social justice isdefined as that which provides all its citizens with the possibility to transcend the limits of their earlier selves
, a definition that is prepared by references to several other sources in the body of the book itself.Writing this book has provided it's authors with something of this transcendence
and we hope that itwill also do so for such persons as those who Kierkegaard always addressed most reverently as "MyReader".
Zoran Vojinovic Michael B. Abbott.

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