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Island Vulnerability

"But despite everything, I still love the sea. I am an islander."
Sri Lankan Kodiyatu Sunimal who survived the 26 December 2004 tsunami that killed more than 250,000 people around the Indian Ocean. Reported by the BBC.

"Nothing like living on an island to convince you that land is the correct place to be."
Felipe Reyes in Mary Doria Russell's novel The Sparrow (p. 203).

Island Vulnerability explores the challenges which isolated geographies face when dealing with risk and disasters by examining the processes which create, maintain, and could be used to reduce their vulnerability.

Galunggung, Indonesia on 3 December 1982.

Galunggung, Indonesia on 3 December 1982.
(Public domain photo courtesy of the National Geophysical Data Center's photo library, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce, U.S.A Government, photographer R. Hadian, USGS.)

Understanding Island Vulnerability

The "what" questions are:

The "why" questions are:

See also alternatives to vulnerability.

"Where?" is answered by the locations available in the menu at the left, but many locations are not yet covered. Please contact Island Vulnerability with any material.

"Who?" is answered by the people mentioned throughout the Island Vulnerability website who have contributed and who continue to contribute to this topic. For more information on this website, please contact Island Vulnerability.

"How?" is illustrated by the proposed Island Vulnerability projects as well as by the past and ongoing work mentioned throughout this website.

View from Chalky Mount, Barbados.

View from Chalky Mount, Barbados.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1999.)

This Website's Information

The information provided on the Island Vulnerability webpages is not intended to be comprehensive. Instead, it is indicative of the vulnerabilities which islands experience and how sustainable approaches might be developed and implemented. The aim, through selected examples, is to highlight and to explain the importance of islands and other island geographies, both their intrinsic value and the contributions they could make to sustainable approaches for managing vulnerability elsewhere.

Generic disaster and risk management topics are not covered because the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the United Nations' International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat, amongst many other sources, provide unmatchable information resources. As well, other sites such as EM-DAT and PAHO provide information for producing risk and disaster profiles of countries. Island Vulnerability is designed to complement such sources. The publications listed here reflect those in the library of Island Vulnerability.

By illustrating the work which has been done and the groups and people involved in island vulnerability, this webpage will provide another resource for those with island interests and for those who have yet to develop island interests. Nonetheless, any further suggestions or indications of omissions or errors are encouraged. Please Contact Island Vulnerability.

Ailsa Craig, Scotland.

Ailsa Craig, Scotland.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1994.)

What are islands, isolated geographies, and small states?
If a location or people feel part of the global island community or wish to become involved in the global island community for a specific issue, then they should not be excluded. Any physical or human geographical entity may decide to be part of the global island community.
more on this answer

What is vulnerability?
Vulnerability indicates the potential for damage or harm to occur, yet vulnerability is not only about the present state, but also about what we have done to ourselves and to others over the long-term, why and how we have done that in order to reach the present state, and how we may change the present state to improve in the future.
more on this answer, including some supporting case studies in the anthology from James Lewis titled The Creation of Cultures of Risk: Political and commercial decisions as causes of vulnerability for others (79 kb in PDF).

What significance does island vulnerability have?
Island vulnerability investigates the processes which lead to a high proportional impact in disasters, and, more importantly, looks at ways in which vulnerability could be reduced by lessening proportional impact in such a small environment.
more on this answer

A House on Upolu, Samoa Which Was Damaged by Cyclone Heta in January 2004.

A House on Upolu, Samoa Which Was Damaged by Cyclone Heta in January 2004.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)

Why islands?
The focus on islands arises because the physical and psychological isolation of islands tends to prioritise them disproportionately low in comparison to their importance. As well, the transferability of lessons from islands to other locations, particularly given the innovative solutions which islands may develop, is a vital outcome from island studies.
more on this answer

Why vulnerability?
"As a future-focused approach, vulnerability is a way of using strengths and strategically improving weaknesses." (SOPAC, 2002).
"Vulnerability has to be addressed therefore, not only by post-disaster concern and response, but as a part of the day-to-day management of change--whether or not that change is called development." (Lewis, 1999).
more on this answer

Why island vulnerability?
"Island countries and countries of islands have, in their relative smallness, an extraordinary vulnerability [and] Islands could inform the continents, were they given the chance" (Lewis, 1999).
more on this answer

Lough Outer, Kilkeely Forest, County Cavan, Ireland.

Lough Outer, Kilkeely Forest, County Cavan, Ireland.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1997.)

Alternatives to Vulnerability
Definitions, connotations, and understandings of "vulnerability" vary. Other possible phrases or ideas which refer to, encompass, or complement Island Vulnerability as defined by this website are
Island Affairs, Island Capability, Island Capacity, Island Power, Island Resilience, Island Resiliency, Island Risk, Island Strength, and Island Sustainability.
more on this answer

Fiji Sunset.

Fiji Sunset.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)

Contact Island Vulnerability.

The material on the Island Vulnerability website is provided as only an information source. Neither definitive advice nor recommendations are implied. Each person or organisation accessing the website is responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed and are strongly advised to verify all information. No liability will be accepted for loss or damage incurred as a result of using the material on this website. The appearance of external links on this website does not constitute endorsement of the organisations, information, products, or services contained on that external website.