Governing Disasters
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Governing Disasters

The Challenges of Emergency Risk Regulation

Edited by Alberto Alemanno

This is the first volume that addresses the complexities of the volcanic ash cloud that overshadowed Europe in April 2011, but has subsequently struck again in Australia, Chile and Europe. It does so from a multidisciplinary perspective, drawing upon research from economics, law, sociology and other fields, as well as volcanology and leading expertise in jet engineering. Whilst our knowledge base is wide-ranging, there is a common focus on the practical lessons of the ash cloud crisis both for subsequent eruptions and for emergency risk regulation more generally.
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Chapter 5: Representing Emergency Risks: Media, Risks and ‘Acts of God’ in the Volcanic Ash Cloud

Adam Burgess


JOBNAME: Alermanno PAGE: 1 SESS: 5 OUTPUT: Tue Sep 6 13:22:57 2011 5. Representing emergency risks: media, risk and ‘acts of God’ in the volcanic ash cloud Adam Burgess 5.1 CRISIS MANAGEMENT, MEDIA AND RISK AMPLIFICATION To an extent, at least, we live in a precautionary era whose imagination is exercised by the possibility of remote threats. As the example of international air travel security indicates, we are even prepared to reorganize aspects of everyday life around them and suffer routine inconvenience without question. Such responses often originate in demands following dramatic incidents, intensified by revelations and accusations articulated through the media. ‘Something must be done!’ is the common cry, with the underlying message that public health and safety must be paramount, and not compromised by politics or profiteering. This chapter is a preliminary consideration of media coverage around the volcanic ash cloud in the context of the distinctive late modern discourse of risk that has been influential in framing unforeseen events in the UK, the country, alongside Ireland, most affected by the unprecedented ‘cloud of unknowing’ in April 2010 (Marley, 2010). Here was a new and unpredictable threat – apparently able to bring down airliners, according to the implication of the flight ban put in place following the appearance of the cloud. Might the ash cloud also evoke the kind of media ‘amplification of risk’ (Pidgeon, Kasperson and Slovic, 2003) and political over-reaction seen in the UK around issues from genetically modified...

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