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K-State Today

November 14, 2011

Responding to a need: Professor's book focuses on increasing social, political and physical components of natural disasters

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

The effects of environmental disasters far exceed their physical dimensions, but no book has been available to help students fully understand these social aftershocks -- until now. Bimal Paul, a professor of geography at Kansas State University, recently wrote a book that seeks to open the door to this knowledge.

Paul's first book, "Environmental Hazards and Disasters: Contexts, Perspectives and Management," released Oct. 28, provides insight on the manifest threat to humans and their welfare as a result of natural disasters.

"There are sociocultural, political and physical components of the disaster process," Paul said. "Human and social vulnerability as well as environmental risks are explored within the comprehensive context of diverse natural hazards and disasters."

Although the book is designed as a primary text for an interdisciplinary course on environmental hazards for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students, Paul said those in the hazard response and research fields may find the book helpful as well.

"Emergency managers, planners and both public and private organizations involved in disaster response and mitigation would benefit from this book, in addition to researchers or instructors," he said.

The lack of an appropriate text for a hazard course he has taught since 2000, Geography of Natural Hazards, combined with the effects of far-reaching disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, provided the driving force for Paul to complete this book. Several texts are available for an introductory hazard course, but they emphasize only the physical dimensions of these hazards and reach no further, he said.

The timing of this information is also important, he added. Hazard researchers strongly believe that the number of people affected by and the damage caused by natural disasters have increased in recent decades and will only continue to increase.

"With climate change on the horizon, the number of disasters will not only be expected to increase in the near future, but their severity also will be increased," Paul said. "This book will offer an overview of the key issues related to these environmental hazards and disasters, as well as provide operational definitions and methodologies that will be useful in addressing hazard-related issues as they arise." 

"Environmental Hazards and Disasters: Contexts, Perspectives and Management" will soon be available in libraries at most universities in North America, Europe and other continents. It is currently available at Amazon.com and Wiley.com.

Paul earned his doctorate from Kent State University in 1988. In addition to teaching Geography of Natural Hazards, he teaches several other geography courses at K-State. His research interests include population geography, medical geography, computer cartography, natural hazards, quantitative methods and South Asia.