Oil Spills and Community Resilience: Uneven Impacts and Protection in Historical Perspective

OIL SPILLS AND COMMUNITY RESILIENCE: UNEVEN IMPACTS AND PROTECTION IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Geographical Review 105(4)

Craig Colten, Audrey Grismore, Jessica Simms

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American Geographical Society: What is the main purpose of your study?

Craig Colten: To respond to the many studies of community resilience that create “measures of resilience” using data that does not document actual resilient practices.  We examine historical records and conducted interviews to assemble a record of the things people actually did.

American Geographical Society: What are the practical, day to day implications of your study?

Craig Colten: We trace the actions taken by individuals and local governments in the wake of major hurricanes and oil spills to illustrate how they rebounded.  This is important as coastal regions face more intense storms and sea levelcolten rise.  By knowing how Louisiana coastal residents got back on their feet without external government assistance, we can help other locations mobilize in similar, locally adapted ways.

American Geographical Society: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?

Craig Colten: Our initial conclusions suggested that communities that had recovered from hurricanes put the same basic practices to work when oil spills occurred.

But, those practices were not up to the scale of the challenges posed by the massive BP oil gusher in 2010. So in this case, an all-hazards approach for community resilience was not wholly appropriate.

American Geographical Society: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?

Craig Colten: Since the general view is that hazards and community resilience are place based, this work reveals an new approach to documenting resilience and offers a qualitative approach that moves the discussion from proxy measures of resilience to actual practices. This gets much closer to the process of adaptation that is central to resilience.colten1

American Geographical Society: How does your research help us think about Geography?

Craig Colten: Coastal Louisiana is a poster child for communities facing climate change. It has an eroding shoreline that is also facing sea level rise.  These particular conditions make it an extraordinary location to consider the adaptations to changing environmental conditions.

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