Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Summary and Final Tasks

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Summary and Final Tasks

Summary

As you learned earlier in this module, humans and their environment are part of a complex, coupled system. Human institutions are coupled to the natural system through both human modifications of the environment and the information they gather about how these modifications affect the environment. Decision-makers gather information about how their modifications have changed the natural system to evaluate whether the modifications they have made have helped them reach their economic, political, or social goals. In this way, modifications to the natural environment feedback into the human policymaking process.

In modules 11, 12, and 13, you explored several tools that policymakers and stakeholders use to manage these feedbacks. In Module 11, you learned how the sensitivity and adaptive capacity dimensions of vulnerability are used to filter information about coastal hazards in ways that allow policymakers to incorporate economic and social considerations when assessing vulnerability. In Module 12, you learned how the disaster management cycle could be used to guide modification of the human and natural components of the coastal environment to reduce these vulnerabilities. And in this module, you learned how stakeholders can use cost-benefit analysis to assess the economic, political, and social costs and benefits of these modifications.

Given the complexity of the coupled human-environment system, you should not be surprised to learn that these tools are far from perfect. The uncertainty inherent in the system frequently leads to surprises: attempts to modify the natural environment will not always have the expected effects on natural structures and processes, and even when the environment is changed as intended, the effects of this change may not have the desired effects on the local economy and society. Policymakers must therefore learn to live with these uncertainties. They may be able to prepare for uncertainties – including by using the adaptive management approaches and flexible adaptation pathways discussed earlier in this module – but they cannot eliminate them.

See caption.
People walking on a beach at sunset.
Credit: PDPhoto.org

Reminder - Complete all of the Module 13 tasks!

You have reached the end of Module 13! Double-check the to-do list on the Module 13 Roadmap to make sure you have completed all of the activities listed there.

References and Further Reading