Volume 16 Issue 3
Cascading risks are, of course, not a new concept, but we make no apology for the emblematic reminder on our front cover. Coupled with compound risks – “physical components in the environmental domain”– many parts of the world are experiencing their devastating manifestations in real life. We are witnessing wildfires, heatwaves, flooding, disruption, discontent and geopolitical calamity, continually stalked by the malignant shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All represent individual and societal tragedies; many involve extreme weather, but these cannot be blamed on ‘climate’ alone. As Milad Zamanifar says on p18, if the role of climate is emphasised in these disasters, then the: “Valid argument about the roles of policymakers and authorities in inducing a disaster might become obscured.” Political expedience, inaction or feet dragging often make a disaster worse, but it is simply easier to place the blame on climate.
Complacency is also a peril, as examined within the context of terrorism on p72 and p74. Threat fatigue and the psychological difficulty of maintaining perpetual vigilance mean that warning signs can – and have been – missed.
Are there any solutions? On p12 Gianluca Pescaroli says that this could all be the last call to shift away from the traditional approach based on single threats or drivers and outlines the benefits of stress testing. On p60 Eric McNulty reminds us that we need a mindset purpose-built for the pervasive ambiguity and tumult that will define the coming decades. And Jenifer Hesterman notes that scenario planning and extending our imaginations are essential (p8).
Mindsets must, indeed, shift, particularly with regard to societies and resilience. If programmes are imposed upon communities without them actively being involved in their leadership and formation, then they are likely to fail or, worse, cause long-lasting damage.
We also need to be wary of an impending sense of nihilism that seems to be infecting wide tranches of the world. And this means genuine empowerment, somehow uniting ruptured communities and re-establishing trust in leadership.