Multiple risks

Putting adaptive capacity into the context of people’s lives: a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico

López-Marrero, T. and B. Yarnal (2010). Putting adaptive capacity into the context of people's
lives: a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico. Natural Hazards 52:
277-297.

Abstract: 
Recent developments in the vulnerability literature have contested the use of technical solutions as the sole adaptive strategies to reduce natural hazard impact; this literature emphasizes the need to attend to the wider everyday risks to which people are exposed and that aggravate hazard vulnerability. Using a case study of two flood-prone communities in Puerto Rico, this article supports and enhances that literature by placing floods within a wider context of other risks and determining how everyday risks influence people’s perceptions of and capacity to adapt to floods. Participatory methods are used to elicit the everyday risks that concern community members. The analysis reveals that participants perceive floods as one of their risks, but they see them as neither the most important nor most severe risk in their lives. Instead, they find other concerns—health conditions, family well-being, economic factors, and land tenure—more pressing. These competing risks limit adaptive capacity and increase vulnerability to natural hazards. The results suggest that addressing these multiple risks, mainstreaming flood management and adaptation into the wider context of people’s general well being, and increasing risk perception will strengthen adaptive capacity to present and future floods.
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