Syndromes of sustainability of development for assessing the vulnerability of coupled human-environmental systems. The case of hydrometeorological disasters in Central America and the Caribbean

David Manuel-Navarrete, José Javier Gómez, Gilberto Gallopín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Scopus citations

Abstract

Syndrome analysis seeks to capture socio-ecological dynamics of interaction by addressing clusters of symptoms rather than isolated variables. This paper identifies the main symptoms of vulnerability to hydrometeorological disasters in Central America and the Caribbean by building on the results of 14 postdisaster assessments. A syndrome representation for this region is proposed, including 13 symptoms and their causal interrelations. These symptoms are manifested in the spheres of biology, hydrology, soil, population, economy, social organization, and knowledge. The linkages of this syndrome representation to other syndromes, its degree of generality across places, and its causal loops are analyzed and discussed. Three vicious circles increasing vulnerability to hydrometeorological disasters in the region are identified. Two of them point to the importance of breaking urbanization cycles marked by the absence of effective land-use planning which lead to the occupation of hazardous areas by poor people. The third causal loop goes far beyond the urban context and establishes ecosystem degradation and conversion as its main driving force. This latter vicious circle supports the notion that vulnerability should be understood in the context of human-environmental interactions. Overall, the paper illustrates how syndrome analysis delivers integrated, and relatively generalizable, assessments of vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-217
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Hydrometeorological disasters
  • Sustainable development
  • Syndromes of global change
  • Vulnerability assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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