Date of Thesis

5-10-2017

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

David Putnam Marsh

Abstract

This thesis seeks to conduct an examination of the function of community resilience in post-disaster areas. Using a study of New Orleans, this thesis first examines the concept of Hurricane Katrina as an unnatural storm, presenting the devastation and death in the aftermath of Katrina as a product of the social and economic divides endemic in the city rather than of the actual magnitude of the storm. In fact, the recovery process after New Orleans was shocking to most of the world. Those hit hardest by the storm and generally helped least by the government were minority communities, low-income individuals, and elders; arguably those who would need the most help. The timing of Katrina coincided right as the field of vulnerability research was being expanded to incorporate sociodemographic features of populations. Needless to say, Hurricane Katrina not only substantiated the need for such a metric, but spurred an onset of academic research related to social vulnerability in disaster contexts. While the majority of post-Katrina literature has focused, rightly so, on raced-based narratives, I am asserting that not enough attention has been focused on grassroots efforts and community activism in rebuilding and recovering from the storm.Therefore, this thesis also seeks to contribute to this field of knowledge and bridge the gap in community resilience research and recovery. Specifically, the second half of this thesis seeks to propose a mathematical and quantifiable framework for understanding the role of community strength in the capacity for recovery. Using a count of community institutions as a metric for community strength in a census block, I will propose a model that regresses a recovery variable on a physical vulnerability variable, a social vulnerability variable, and a community strength variable (as measured by community institutions). Finally, this research will contribute to a literature in environmental studies and urban planning in an effort to transform the ways in which we think about the built environment and how it relates to humanity. Through this thesis I hope to provide a tool for community organizers and urban planners on the importance of the built environment in fostering community, and extend the meaning of urban planning as a field to incorporate people and societies, not just buildings.

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