The complexity of city life
Cities have become the hubs of our modern society. Already more than half of the world’s population lives in cities; they generate 80% of global economic output; they act as central nodes of infrastructure critical for peoples’ lives and lifestyles. Problematically, many of these features of cities that make them attractive places to live and work, also present challenges in the context of disasters and other disruptive events. Finding ways to ensure the urban environment remains sustainable and functional before, during and after disasters and other disruptions represents a major challenge for city managers and national governments. This is the central goal in the global drive towards urban resilience.
Cities and urban areas are considered to be resilient when their physical structures, critical systems and governance structures continue to function in support of the resident’s well being before, during and after disruptions. Disruptions may be a result of technical breakdowns, social unrest, or natural hazards. The high population density in cities, the interdependence of urban lifestyles and work, and the growing dependence on increasingly complex infrastructure systems and services, are making cities more vulnerable to this broad variety of disruptions or hazards.
In view of the potentially wide-ranging implications of urban disasters, increased investment in urban disaster preparedness is an important contribution to the overall resilience of societies. Urban resilience captures the ability of these systems to anticipate and adapt to future challenges.
Challenger | Tim Prior, ETHZ Centre for Security Studies
I lead a policy research team at the Center for Security Studies at Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology. My team is engaged in research and policy consulting on a range of fields centring on risk, particularly socio-technical hazards, and the way in which these risks are mitigated by human and organisational actions and practices. We’re interested in creating new ways to think about and address today’s complex challenges.
My career has been characterised by trans disciplinary practice, examining the interactions between people and the environments in which they live. I draw from a diverse academic background in quantitative ecology, environmental science, and psychology to solve applied research questions. I am particularly interested in understanding how and why individuals make the decisions they do in the contexts of environmental sustainability and risk.
I have broad expertise in resilience, risk, and disaster risk management, working in partnership with the Swiss government and in Australia. Previously, I have collaborated with community, industry, and government extractive industry stakeholders in establishing sustainable resource management practices in Australia, and also established my own award-winning science communication firm.