• Superstorm Research Lab

    If we think of Hurricane Sandy as the extreme weather that hit the New York City region on October 29, 2012, then the storm was one of the worst in the country’s history, killing dozens of people, affecting hundreds of thousands, and inflicting as much as $75 billion in economic losses.

  • Dialogues in Human Geography

    Mutual aid is the fundamental basis of all human societies, an understanding that is exemplified with striking clarity during times of crises. The coronavirus pandemic has brought the caring geographies of mutual aid into sharp relief with the failings of both capitalism and the state.

  • Trends in Cognitive Sciences

    How do people behave when disasters strike? Popular media accounts
    depict panic and cruelty, but in fact individuals often cooperate with and care for one another during crises. I summarize evidence for such
    'catastrophe compassion', discuss its roots, and consider how it might be cultivated in more mundane times.

  • American Ethnologist

    Many New Orleans residents who were displaced in 2005 by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the subsequent levee failures and floods are still displaced. Living with long-term stress related to loss of family, community, jobs, and social security as well as the continuous struggle for a decent life in unsettled life circumstances, they manifest what we are calling “chronic disaster syndrome.”

  • Australian Psychological Society

    In this document we put forward eight simple but important “best practice” insights from psychological science to help people come to terms and cope with the profound implications of climate change, so that they can stay engaged with the problem, see where their own behaviour plays a part, and participate in speedy societal change to restore a safe climate

  • Willow Brugh, Galit Sorokin, and Yaneer Bar-Yam

    Hierarchical control models have dominated organizational structures for thousands of years. Increasingly, the power of distributed organizations for performing complex tasks is becoming apparent. The strength of centralized decision making systems lies in consistency, continuity, and availability of resources. However, the inherent structure which leads to these strengths also limits the ability to respond to highly complex information. In this paper we explore the strength of the Occupy Sandy mutual aid organization.

  • New Local Government Network

    This report addresses a key aspect of the nation’s response to COVID-19:
    the hyper-local, spontaneous efforts of communities. These efforts
    do not reflect the traditional ‘helper and helped’ relationship, which
    prevails in public services and the formal charity sector. They obey the
    deeper obligations of mutualism: free citizens combining to protect their
    communities, and the most vulnerable, against a threat to all.

  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

    Climate change disproportionately impacts communities already challenged by structural oppression. Many mainstream resilience planning efforts focus on physical infrastructure. These efforts have, in many cases led to displacement through the phenomenon of Green Gentrification. An alternative framework of climate resilient design and planning considers the role of place attachment, social capital, and local knowledge in disaster resilience, here referred to as relational infrastructure.

  • Japanese Studies

    This article takes the notion of the ‘disaster utopia’ as a starting point for reconsidering the impact of the Japanese triple disaster of 11 March 2011 (3/11). It has often been observed that disasters may lead to utopian longings for a better world, and that these may, in some cases, lead to long-term social and political change.

  • Progress in Human Geography

    Calls from the climate change community and a more widespread concern for human security have reawakened the interest of geographers and others in disaster politics. A legacy of geographical research on the political causes and consequences of disaster is reviewed and built on to formulate a framework for the analysis of post-disaster political space.

  • Natural Hazards Review

    This paper highlights a variety of studies on disaster recovery and reconstruction, some showing that political, economic, and social change is unlikely after disasters; some showing that change occurs frequently after disasters; and still others showing that both are true, depending on who you are.

  • Oxford University Press

    Attributions of panic are almost exclusively directed at members of the general public. Here, we inquire into the relationships between elites and panic. We review current research and theorizing about panic, including problems of identifying when it has occurred. We propose three relationships: elites fearing panic, elites causing panic and elites panicking.

  • Environment & Urbanization

    Spontaneous responses by self-organizing, “emergent” voluntary groups and individuals are a common feature of urban disasters. Their activities include search and rescue, transporting and distributing relief supplies, and providing food and drink to victims and emergency workers.

  • Open Citizenship

    Droughts, floods and other natural catastrophes related to climate change belong to a class of global risks that have downstream effects on the economy and productivity of settlements, social cohesion and administrational institutions. This represents growing challenges for adaptation strategies and disaster management.

  • Nat Hazards

    Disaster associated with natural hazards can lead to important changes—positive or negative—in socio-ecological systems. When disasters occur, much attention is given to the direct disaster impacts as well as relief and recovery operations. Although this focus is important, it is noteworthy that there has been little research on the characteristics and progress of change induced by disasters.

  • Physicians for Social Responsbility

    Climate change affects the health of all Americans - right now. There are no exceptions. Although needed adaptation will reduce risks for all, only prompt, significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will stave off a crescendoing public health emergency. Children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions or who are socially the most vulnerable will be the most susceptible to the ravages of climate change.

  • American Psychologist

    The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the norms, patterns, and power structures in the United States that privilege certain groups of people over others. This article describes COVID-19 as an unprecedented catalyst for social transformation that underscores the need for multilevel and cross-sectoral solutions to address systemic changes to improve health equity for all.

  • Siobhan Watters

    This is the manuscript of a guest lecture I gave in MIT 3874G: Disaster Capitalism, a course designed and delivered by Dr. Warren Steele of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. The theme for the day’s lecture was ‘Exit Strategies.’

  • NACLA report on the Americas

    Faced with an onslaught of disasters, government mismanagement of
    life-threatening crises, and the injustices of colonialism, Puerto Rican
    communities have bet on their own survival. Their mutual aid efforts testify
    to both the power of grassroots organizing and the scale of state neglect.

  • Dean Spade

    For years, I have been sad about how mutual aid rarely gets taught in classes about social change and social movements. It is such a vital part of movement building and transformation, and often very mobilizing for students to learn about it. I hope this will be changing as the concept of mutual aid is circulating more. I made a Teaching Guide to go with my new book about mutual aid being published by Verso Books in October, wanted to share now in case anyone is considering the book for fall syllabi.

  • Dean Spade

    I’m teaching a class this fall at University of Chicago called Queer and Trans Mutual Aid for Survival and Mobilization. Here is the syllabus. I will be posting the discussion questions and class exercises for each week here, so you can use them if you are reading along alone or in a reading group.

  • Bioethical Inquiry

    The focus of discussion about the ethical issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has been on the great suffering to which it has given rise. However, there may be some unexpected positive outcomes that also emerge from the global disaster.

  • John Hopkins University Press

    St. Augustine Church, widely regarded as the oldest African-American church in the country, was slated for closure only six months after Hurricane Katrina. Since its opening, St. Augustine has always been a vital cultural nexus in the city's Afro-Creole community, and closing the parish at a time when it was most needed would have been a devastating blow.

  • Resilience

    A pervasive sense of uncertainty permeates individual and collective life today. The
    political economic, cultural, infrastructural, and environmental changes, neoliberal
    development ushers in, manufacture insecurity at scales stretching from the molecular to the
    global.

  • Disaster Prevention and Management

    One of the most obvious problems for those involved with disaster relief work is coordination with other teams in the field, with headquarters, with the mother organization in the home country and having to deal with unanticipated situations. The central dilemma appears to be this: disaster relief workers either have the knowledge to know what to do or the authority to do it.

  • Communication Quarterly

    This critical discourse analysis of the American Red Cross (ARC) interrogates the discourses of situated ARC stakeholders following their participation in the 2005 hurricane disaster relief efforts. The author uses critical discourse analysis as a guiding theoretical framework and method of analysis to reflect on how the language and practices of the ARC, on a variety of levels, normalizes Whiteness and maintains White privilege.

  • Johns Hopkins University Press

    The year 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall just outside of New Orleans on August 29, 2005. Critical narratives point to the glaring racial and economic inequality that contextualized the catastrophe. However, most Katrina discourse has been limited by its neglect of intersectional feminist analysis. In this article I introduce a model for making intersectional sense of Hurricane Katrina with lessons for the study of other disasters.

  • Duke University Press

    Care has reentered the zeitgeist. In the immediate aftermath of the 2016
    US presidential election, op-eds on #selfcare exploded across media platforms. But for all the popular focus on self-care rituals, new collective
    movements have also emerged in which moral imperatives to act — to
    care — are a central driving force.

  • College Literature

    Emmett Till's body arrived home in Chicago in September 1955. White racists in Mississippi had tortured, mutilated, and killed the young 14-year-old African-American boy for whistling at a white woman. Determined to make visible the horribly mangled face and twisted body of the child as an expression of racial hatred and killing, Mamie Till, the boy's mother, insisted that the coffin, interred at the A.A. Ranier Funeral Parlor on the South Side of Chicago, be left open for four long days.

  • Disaster Research Center University of Delaware

    The World Trade Center attack, though constituting an unprecedented disaster, nevertheless generated many of the features seen in other disasters in the U.S. Such features include the convergence of volunteers and donations of supplies, which are welldocumented in the literature.

  • Urban Forestry & Urban Greening

    Community gardens have historically played an important role in the social–ecological resilience of New York City (NYC). These public-access communal gardens not only support flora and fauna to enhance food security and ecosystem services, but also foster communities of practice which nurture the restorative and communal aspects of this civic ecology practice. A

  • Urban Sustainability Directors Network

    In North American cities, a great deal of effort is needed to enhance equity-centered climate resilience. To date, most community resilience work focuses on identifying and managing vulnerability and risk through top-down approaches that often fail to meaningfully include equity-centered strategies considering the most vulnerable populations.

  • Northern Arizona University

    This paper focuses on Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (MADR), a grassroots organization providing natural disaster relief rooted in the principles of mutual aid and autonomous direct action. Through participant-observation of a series of workshops and semi-structured interviews with activists and organizers, this research explores why it is that individuals are motivated to act within this grassroots network, as opposed to participating in other efforts in response to natural disasters.

  • Duke University Press

    In the current political moment in the United States, defined by climate
    crisis, increased border enforcement, attacks on public benefits, expansive carceral control, rising housing costs, and growing white right-wing
    populism, leftist social movement activists and organizations face two
    particular challenges that, though not new, are urgent.

  • Superstorm Research Lab

    The Superstorm Research Lab (SRL) is a mutual aid research and writing collective working to understand the changes in how New York City policy actors, NGO leaders, activists, volunteers, and residents are thinking about social, economic and environmental issues following Hurricane Sandy.

  • Tohoku University

    Mutual-aid communities are normally built voluntarily in disaster-struck areas. Similar kinds of communities formed after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. In this case, calls for collaboration between all Japanese people such as Ganbaro Nippon (“carry on, Japan” or “hang in there, Japan”) appeared on posters and stickers in towns throughout the country.

  • University of Vermont

    Although not always recognized as such, catastrophes are complicated systems that are built on the social production of vulnerability. This thesis considers how responses to catastrophes are usually built on an oversimplified understanding of what they are, and argues that more nuanced, multi-faceted understandings of catastrophes can guide us to more effective solutions.

  • Public Choice

    Can bottom-up relief efforts lead to recovery after disasters? Conventional wisdom and contemporary public policy suggest that major crises require centralized authority to provide disaster relief goods. Using a novel set of comprehensive donation and expenditure data collected from archival records, this paper examines a bottom-up relief effort following one of the most devastating natural disasters of the nineteenth century: the Chicago Fire of 1871.

  • New Labor Forum

    “We have all experienced the devastating effects of natural and unnatural disasters in America.” So began a speaker at a post-Hurricane Sandy rally at Zuccotti Park on July 31, 2013, recalling two previous disasters that the audience knew well: the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina’s flooding of New Orleans on August 29, 2005

  • The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

    Many groups and agencies have a vital need of accurate information on how people behave during disasters. This article presents information which seems to have particular pertinence for disaster preparedness, control, and amelioration

  • Lexington Books

    It is Thursday, November 8, 2012 at St. Jacobi Church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. It’s a bright, dry day. Just one week earlier, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast, ravaging everything in its wake. In New York City, thousands of houses are destroyed or flooded.

  • Louisiana State University

    After Hurricane Katrina of 2005, New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward became an icon for the failure of recovery efforts and the persistence of inequality and poverty in American society. However, for as long as this community has been marginalized it has been creating advocacy organizations and counter-narratives that battled discrimination and imbued its cultural practices with meaning.

  • Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute

    Within hours of Sandy’s landfall, members from the Occupy Wall Street movement—a planned social movement comprised of social activists who protested income inequality in the United States—used social media to tap the wider Occupy network for volunteers and aid. Overnight, a volunteer army of young, educated, tech-savvy individuals with time and a desire to help others emerged.

  • Louisiana State University

    Following Hurricane Katrina, observers worried that New Orleans might continue on a path of citizen passivity, inter-communal conflict, and corruption that was part of its long-standing reputation. Instead, observers have been struck by the outpouring of citizen engagement, the rise of new or invigorated community organizations, and the calls for government responsiveness.

  • Dissent, University of Pennsylvania Press

    When people ask me, as a climate reporter, what I think will happen next, my answer has been cruel and blasé in its bluntness: "More pandemics." There will be more pandemics, driven by deforestation, habitat destruction, and disease vectors extended due to warming climates, all egged on in their spread by the global nature of our economy. We also know there will be an increase in other kinds of climate disasters: wildfire, drought, hurricane, flood. The future is packed with relentless catastrophe.

  • Uppsala University

    This is a study about disasters, vulnerability and power. With regards to social justice organizing a particular research problem guides the work, specifically that emancipatory projects are often initiated and steered by privileged actors who do not belong to the marginalized communities they wish to strengthen, yet the work is based on the belief that empowerment requires self-organizing from within.

  • Geoforum

    In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, philanthropy has been quick to react to the call for help from Governments and International Organisations. And yet, despite the overwhelming response, increasing attention has been brought to the intricate ways in which philanthropists and billionaires have been asserting their presence through their actions and influence in different spheres of power.