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Social Ties

One proposal on the ability of humans to weather a disaster event is the concept that fundamental adaptive systems evolve over time as a process of our evolution in place (Masten, 2001). “Granovetter (1973) examined geographically based social networks (i.e. strong ties, within groups) and the interactions of people of differing social networks (i.e. weak ties, between groups).” This investigation revealed a factor of human resiliency, that is: a dense mass of social networks that are interacting on many levels contributes to the ability to recover after a disaster event (Wallace and Wallace, 2008).

Disasters by their very nature “kill and injure many, disrupt community organizations and economies and destroy physical infrastructure and dwellings.” (Oliver-Smith, 1991). Social structures of organization cannot sustain in a physical environment that cannot fundamentally support them. Social ties “are at the core of both individual and collective constructions of reality and removal from their most basic physical manifestation constitutes a cultural and physical crisis of profound dimensions (Oliver-Smith, 1982; 1986; 1991). Wallace and Wallace (2008) state that dislocations caused by urban renewal broke social networks and the ties between social networks. This loss of community support for social organization resulted in increased drug abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity, and poverty rates. The dislocations caused by disaster events function in much the same way except their extent is on a larger scale, making it all the more difficult to recover.

Population Exodus caused by Hurricane Katrina

Population Exodus caused by Hurricane Katrina © Times-Picayune

Another important aspect of social organization within and between groups are living arrangements of households and the resources available to households. The more healthy, productive adults in a household that have weathered a disaster event, the greater chance of recovery. Larger families should be able to send out members to “forage for supplies, wait in queues to apply for assistance, accept deliveries and meet with insurance adjusters, caseworkers, contractors, construction workers and building inspectors” (Morrow, 1999, 6).

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