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Victims or survivors? The cost of culture in fire recovery

Webinar recording (1:00:03).

As fire disasters in California increase in severity and frequency, the costs accumulate for federal, state, and local governments, insurers, residents, and communities. While the costs of wildfires are difficult to quantify, the 2018 Carr fire in Shasta County, CA resulted in costly evacuations of approximately 38,000 people, the ecosystem loss of 229,651 acres, destruction of 1,077 homes and the generational equity represented therein, $162 million in firefighting costs, and an estimated $1.6 billion in damages. At the time, this was the sixth largest fire in California history and necessitated a coordinated recovery response by government agencies and nongovernmental groups. This seminar presentation draws on extensive qualitative data – 134 in-depth interviews and six months of ethnographic observation with Carr fire recovery organizations – to document mechanisms by which the costs of this disaster are borne unequally by residents. I demonstrate how local and visiting aid workers’ normative assumptions about legitimate victimhood structure survivors’ access to resources and produce inequalities in disaster recovery. I conclude with a discussion of how gender, race, and age intersect with socioeconomic class in the production of disaster recovery inequalities. As climate disasters become increasingly prevalent worldwide, it is imperative that ecologists, fire management agencies, social service providers, health professionals, and social scientists study the processes that produce unequal disaster recovery outcomes and propose interventions that can mitigate these disparities.

Presenter: Rebecca Ewert is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in Sociology at Northwestern University. Her research interests include mental health, disasters, culture, inequality, and qualitative methods. Her work explores how people of different social groups (classes, genders, ages, and races) recover economically, socially, and emotionally from disasters. More about her work can be found on her website: www.rebeccaewert.com.


April 16
11:00 am - 12:00 pm PDT

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