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Knowing Thy Neighbor Is Key To Surviving A Disaster: Eric Klinenberg On NPR
Risk Management | January 08, 2013

Knowing Thy Neighbor Is Key To Surviving A Disaster: Eric Klinenberg On NPR

Fresh off his recent feature in The New Yorker, Eric Klinenberg stopped by NPR to give an interview on the importance of community in disaster situations. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, a great deal of attention is being paid to reviving and improving city infrastructure. However, as Klinenberg explains, overhauling social infrastructure is just as important as the physical construction of a city in saving lives in a disaster situation. Using research from his acclaimed book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, he argues that those who are living in more socially engaged communities are often more resilient to natural disasters. "We have failed to recognize the significance of our social infrastructure," he says in the interview, "the way in which communications matters, the way in which our relationships with neighbors, and family and friends matters; the way in which our neighborhood can protect or imperil us, depending on where we are."

He suggests focusing on a new type of "homeland security." A system whereby we are protected from climate change, extreme weather, and terrorism not only when a crisis hits—but in our daily lives. By changing our living conditions now, we may fair better in the future. "When real disaster strikes," he says, "it's the social stuff that might make the difference between life and death." By combining both physical construction elements and sociological factors in our planning, he says that we may be able to build more resilient communities. Klineberg is a sociologist whose work explores the inner-workings of cities, culture, media, and politics. His newest book, Going Solo, targeted the biggest demographic shift since the baby boom: the rise of individuals choosing to live alone. In his books and keynotes he provides sweeping research that spans disciplines and provides audiences with the implications that demographic and social shifts can have on society.
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