International Development Planning Review

Assessing urban vulnerability and social adaptation to risk: Evidence from Santo Domingo

International Development Planning Review (2002), 24, (1), 59–76.

Abstract

Urban areas are becoming increasingly risky places to live, especially for low-income residents of cities in developing countries. Exposure to environmental risk and hazard has stimulated a range of work examining the physical processes creating these hazards, and the human processes that lead to vulnerability. Both approaches are useful, but are in danger of focusing on proximate rather than underlying causes. The concept of 'adaptive potential' is introduced in this paper to expose the social base of vulnerability. It offers a framework for broadening the analysis of risk to include an examination of local social assets. Such assets may already be used in confronting vulnerability, or they may be more latent; in either case, they offer a way for strategic policy interventions to enhance community resilience with regard to future risk at a time of growing environmental uncertainty. Adaptive potential is applied to a case study community in Santo Domingo.

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Pelling, Mark