Development and the Spatial Distribution of Risk

  • Harold D. Foster
Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)


The earth’s surface is an intricate risk mosaic. The description and appre-ciation of this fact must necessarily form an essential ingredient in any rational attempt to satisfy community safety goals (Foster, 1975). Despite the obvious significance of spatial variations in the hazardousness of place, until quite recently, relatively few attempts have been made to quantify risk at the local level (Hewitt and Burton, 1971). This is not to imply that such differences in the occurrence of catastrophe have escaped widespread recognition. On the contrary, the extremely selective nature of much of the destruction has been recognized widely for many years. Snow avalanches, for example, may single out a house or a group of dwellings for ruination while neighboring structures are untouched, as occurred at Airolo, Switzerland, during February 1951 (Fraser, 1966). Earthquakes commonly selectively destroy, in a manner which to the cursory observer may appear quite random (Hodgson, 1964). The chaos caused by river flooding, seiches, storm surges, and tsunamis is also highly discriminatory (Office of Emergency Preparedness, 1972). The March 27, 1964, Alaskan earth movements, for instance, generated a series of seismic sea waves that left a trail of wreckage along the Pacific coast of North America, as interesting in its spatial variation as in its magnitude (Hansen and Eckel, 1966). Volcanic phenomena, such as the glowing avalanche of volcanic ash, debris, and poisonous gases which on 8 May 1902, was responsible for 30,000 fatalities in St. Pierre, Martinique, are also selective in their destruction (Macdonald, 1972). Spatial variations also occur in risks from hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, locusts, desert dust storms, dessication cracks (caused by the drying out of old lake silts and clays), surface collapses (the result of underground failure of the roofs of limestone caverns), soil burns (the ignition of upper organic horizons), and a wide variety of industrial and biological processes.


Total Risk Expansive Soil Tsunami Hazard Emergency Preparedness Volcanic Hazard 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold D. Foster
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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