Paradoxically, it is by looking in depth through archives at the analysis of disasters impacts on societies (risks and vulnerability) and their mechanics that historians discover indirectly the responses formulated by our predecessors that DRR practitioners could consider as the basis for adaptation strategies today. As Virginia Garcia-Acosta explains, the complex and multifaceted relationship between nature and culture has fostered the creation and transmission of knowledge to reduce the risk exposure of ancient societies. Nevertheless, this relation can only be understood if it is studied in the 'longue durée'. Historians are thus interested in the forms taken by these adaptation measures to reduce the vulnerability of ecosystems and communities exposed to hazards. While adapting to current natural hazards is often confined to their strictly economic, technological and physical aspects, the historical perspective gives greater focus to those aspects more easily accessible to contemporaries, namely the cultural (risk perception, community relations, etc.), social (burden of inequalities, organisation of society, etc.), geographical (more exposed areas, fragility of environments, etc.) and politico-institutional (governance, standards and regulations, etc.) dimensions. Without these, it is very difficult to see how a society should react to an extreme event and how it should attempt (or not) to predict future crises by designing measures derived directly from past experience.
This paper provides an overview of the potentialities offered by a historical approach by addressing its scientific and societal issues as well as its opportunities at the scale of different continents and cultural areas. The authors show the major role played by traditional societies and indigenous peoples in preserving and transmitting a culture of risk which today is threatened by an unprecedented memory break resulting from the process of globalization in the prospect of the cultural-anthropological conceptual framework. Finally, the paper presents two concrete examples of projects aiming to use historical lessons learned to reduce the vulnerability of local communities.
This paper is a contribution to the 2019 edition of the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR 2019).
To cite this paper:
Garnier, E. A memory for a better resilience to contemporary risks. Contributing Paper to GAR 2019