Between tradition and innovation: What must change and what mustn't in the face of disasters and climate change?

Source(s)
Information and Research for Reconstruction
Shanghai Financial Center and modern skyscraper city behind pollution steam, view from background in Shanghai, China.
iamlukyeee/Shutterstock

Disasters are tangible proof that something needs to change in urban settings and the built environment. But the aftermath of a disaster is also a time to reflect on tradition, history, identity, memory, and cultural meaning. Disaster victims often feel a sense of loss in the face of destruction to their urban spaces and landmarks, and disruptions to their rituals, livelihoods, and traditions. Meanwhile, climate change is forcing us to reconsider our individual and collective behaviours. Many of them need to be changed to avoid additional global warming and reduce vulnerabilities. Some traditional means of production and construction, lost under the pressure of current economic systems, must be recovered if these goals are to be reached.

Disasters and climate risks therefore provide an ideal opportunity to examine change. Innovation is needed to avoid replicating the social and environmental injustices that lead to destruction and losses. But some traditions, and consideration for people’s attachment to community, territories, and their history, are also crucial to reducing vulnerabilities.

Innovation can help us solve some urgent problems. But many of these problems are caused precisely by rapid disruptive changes. For some, technological innovation is the best answer we have. For others, it is the very cause of the vulnerabilities that need to be reduced.

The “uberization” of labour, and other forms of technological control over production and services, are creating social tension in many countries. The growing power of tech corporations is unsettling governance mechanisms and structures. While we are increasingly dependent on technology, our addiction to disruptive innovation is creating new risks. Globalization and the appeal of new technologies are eroding traditions and challenging social values in both rich and poor nations. Climate change is leading authorities to consider radical relocation of communities at risk. But those directly affected sometimes prefer permanence in their territories and continuity in their livelihoods and ways of living. Neoliberal policy promotes change, but destroys livelihoods and local means of production, while weakening institutions. Worldwide, people are losing a sense of pride in craftsmanship and manual labour.

In sum, we are all struggling with the notion of change. This competition invites students to reflect on the value and risks associated with disruptive transformation. It invites them to assume and explain ethical stances regarding change before or after disasters, in their own cities, countries, or territories.

What must change to reduce vulnerabilities and reduce risk? What must remain? What is the role of innovation after disasters and in climate change action? Why is it important to consider traditions, identity, and rituals when proposing responses to radical change? How can they be preserved?

To answer these questions, it is crucial to identify the actors involved, as well as their wishes, needs, and expectations. Responses must also consider available resources, cultural practices, and local traditions, as well as the immaterial implications of reconstruction. They should propose an approach to reconstruction that is not only physical but also social and relational.

Schedule

Expression of interest: Send an email to Mauro Cossu before March 1st, 2022—see details below. Online registration: From December 2021 to May 10, 2022 Submission of projects: From April 10 to May 10, 2022 Selection of prize winners: During the 10th i-Rec conference in Sendai, Japan, 2022

Exhibition of projects

Students must follow all instructions for their work to be eligible for the competition. Accepted entries will be permanently exhibited on the competition website. The projects will be shown and discussed during the 2022 i-Rec conference in Sendai, Japan.

Information

For more information about the student competition, please contact: Mauro Cossu, mauro.cossu@umontreal.ca Gonzalo Lizarralde, gonzalo.lizarralde@umontreal.ca

Fees

Student participation in the competition is free. Student participants are invited to attend the conference-workshop at the reduced registration rate.

Prizes

During the 10th i-Rec conference, a jury of experts will select three projects to be awarded prizes:

  • First prize: CAD $2,000
  • Second prize: CAD $1,000
  • Third prize: CAD $600
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