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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Post-disaster community recovery : linking environmental and economic recovery de Ruiter, Marleen Carolijn


This study examines the linkages between environmental and economic post-disaster recovery for coastal communities using the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a case study. The disaster literature often neglects to discuss the recovery of the natural environment in urban areas and how this influences the economic recovery of a community. This is caused in part by the difficulty of measuring recovery. However, it is a very important part of the post-disaster recovery and this study explores such ‘hidden losses’ as a declined contribution of the local fishery industry to the community. It is also important to recognize that the perception of how the natural environment relates to human societies is influenced by a society’s paradigm. This study first examines the influence of two contrasting paradigms on the assessment of the recovery of natural system: the anthropocentric and ecocentric paradigms. This provides insights into the influence of the contemporary anthropocentric paradigm and the contrast with an ecocentric approach. Secondly, this thesis research studies the linkages between environmental and economic recovery for coastal tourism and fishery industries, focusing on a case study of the Biloxi area of Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The empirical insights gained from the case study are used to refine a framework for linking post-disaster environmental and economic recovery. Fieldwork was conducted in October 2010 and included 13 expert judgment interviews with local stakeholders and authorities. Quantitative analysis was also conducted using statistical time series data on economic and environmental variables. Results indicate that the economic recovery of the environment-dependent fisheries sector lagged behind the recovery of the general economy. This is caused by several factors such as decreased demand for fisheries products due to perception of environmental damage. Findings are summarized in a diagram of linkages between environmental and economic recovery.

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