On September 19th 2018 I had the pleasure of joining peers from fields as diverse as climatology, meteorology, archeology, planning, policy making, and more at Understanding Risk Balkans Conference in Belgrade. Hosted by the government of Serbia in collaboration with the European Commission, The World Bank and its Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and 5x15, the 3-day conference comprised an agenda covering several of the foremost critical concerns for the built environments of the present and near and medium-term future including mapping and analysis of hydrological, geological, and meteorological threats including floods, seismic activity, and wildfires; crowdsourcing, citizen science, open data, and crowd-mapping; catastrophe insurance, financing disaster resilience, and recovery from asset to city scale within both the private and civic sector; community resilience and social protection systems including early warning advisory systems; and science and urban development policy.
Though focused on urban risks within the Balkans region, the conference drew on international case studies, insights and expertise from speakers including Lucka Kajfex Bogataj, Head of the Centre for Agrometeorology and Professor of Climatology at the University of Ljubljana; Panos Giannopoulos, meteorologist at the Hellenic National Meteorological Service; Marko Blagojevic, Director of the Serbian Government's Public Investment Management Office; Sameh Wahba, Global Director for Urban and Territorial Development, Disaster Risk Management and Resilience at the World Bank Group's Social, Rural, Urban and Resilience Global Practice; IHE Delft Institute urban water systems, risk assessment, climate change adaptation, and hydroinformatics expert Prof. Zoran Vojinovic; Janusz Zaleski, Professor at Poland's Institute of Meteorology and Water Management; Lejla Hadzic, Executive Director of Cultural Heritage Without Borders; Olivia Vereha, Cofounder/CTO of Code for Romania; Reinhard Perfler, Vice-Head, Institute for Sanitary Engineering and Water Pollution Control, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna; Roberto Sanchez Avalos, Director of the Data Science Lab, General Directorate of Geostatistics and Beneficiary Registries, Mexican Ministry of Social Development; Michael Staudinger, Director, Austrian Central Institute of Meteorology and Geodynamics; Miljana Radiojevic, lecturer in archaeomaterials, UCL; Radu Vacareanu, Professor of Structural Reliability and Risk Analysis, Technical University of Civil Engineering, Bucharest; Biljana Abolmasov, Professor, Faculty of Geology and Mining, University of Belgrade; and Savina Carluccio, Project Lead on the Resilience Shift, Arup, amongst others.
Invited to deliver the Closing Keynote, I discussed how recent and emerging developments in satellite and terrestrial technologies, and their interface, is enabling increasingly sophisticated real and near-to-real time data aggregation, processing, and analysis, which in turn is facilitating more accurate, efficient, and expedient means of protecting citizenry and essential urban systems and services. Having highlighted the Balkans role in building the foundations of western, and in turn world culture, including its historic role in the development of codification and communication of societal and environmental information, beliefs, and values, I posited its potential to play a critical role in building global resilience to the most pressing meteorological and geological issues of our time. In closing I discussed aspects of my research into the potentialities for evolving greater resilience to wildfires and affiliated hazards through the development of a new architectural and urban paradigm modelled on the biochemistries and behaviours of floral and faunal species indigenous to fire-prone habitats, together with some of the philosophical, psychological, and practical questions the paradigm presents.
A flawlessly produced, vibrant, inspiring, and generative event, Understanding Risk Balkans Conference facilitated timely, dynamic, and critical conversations and collaborations between individual participants, organisations, and in turn country regions, both in-person, and online. The launch-pad for the World Bank's inaugural livestream, I joined volcanologist Alanna Simpson, one of the World Bank's Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist in a head-to-head conversation in which we expanded upon issues central to GFDRR, the World Bank, and both the Balkans' and upcoming Understanding Risk conferences around the world. A provider of umpteen tools for they working in urban risk mitigation, planning, and policy, you can find our more GFDRR and the World Bank at the links below:
World Bank - https://www.worldbank.org/
Understanding Risk - https://understandrisk.org
GFDRR - https://www.gfdrr.org/
Image: Chris Schnepf, University of Idaho under CC BY 3.0 licence.
For they that had not the pleasure of joining 5x15 at Wilderness Festival, sharing the podcast of my talk, ‘Wildfire in the Wilderness: fire, ecology, and us’, in which I share a few thoughts on fire ecology past, present, and possible future...
Melissa Sterry, PhD, chartered design scientist, systems theorist, biofuturist, and serial founder inc. Bionic City®
Asking the question "how would nature design a city" since 2010.
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