Change a River, Change a Community? Factoring in the ‘People Equation’, What Can be Done to Minimize Serious Flood Damage?


September 12, 2013 :: Tom Johnston
Moderated by Knud Petersen

During the disastrous June 2013 Southern Alberta floods, thousands of people were displaced and entire communities were affected by flooding that brought dramatic change to how people live, work and interact with each other. Furthermore, the financial losses are in the billions, which when everything is said and done will affect everyone in the province.

The speaker will argue that the critical element to planning for the future is community engagement. Johnston will also argue that construction of flood-control dams, or physically changing or dredging parts of a river to better manage water flow -- need to be matched with non-structural or policy-based responses, such as incorporating current and best available flood hazard information into land-use planning and legislation, and even prohibiting development in high-risk places.

It is extremely important that in addition to scientists and engineers, governments and developers, we have community involvement in any land-use planning process, not only to ensure that the challenge of flooding is minimized, but also to have the community members be made aware of, and fully involved in, future risks concerning their community.

Speaker: Dr. Tom Johnston

Tom Johnston enrolled at the University of Guelph after graduating from high school in 1975. Selecting geography for his major, he earned two degrees at Guelph, a B.A. and an M.A. After working for a year as a Research Associate in the Geography Department at Guelph, Johnston entered the University of Waterloo where he completed his Ph.D. in 1989.

Johnston then travelled to New Zealand to take up Post-doctoral fellowship in the Geography Department at Massey University in Palmerston North for one year before accepting an appointment at the University of Lethbridge in the summer of 1990. Included among his areas of research interest are the human dimensions of natural hazards.


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