HRAF Research: Natural Hazards and Cultural Transformations

Containment of forest fires in Colorado Springs.

Containment of forest fires in Colorado Springs.

  • How often do events have to occur for humans to plan for them?
  • Do unpredictable hazards lead to different cultural transformations than do more predictable hazards?
  • Under what conditions are contingency plans overwhelmed in the face of natural hazards that are more severe or more frequent than normal? 

These are the research questions at the center of a 4-year NSF-supported project by researchers at HRAF’s Advanced Research Center (hrafARC) at Yale. The project, “Climate-Related Hazards, Disasters, and Cultural Transformations” has investigators from cultural anthropology, archaeology, psychology, geography and climatology, comparing worldwide samples of societies, archaeological traditions, and countries in their responses to hazards related to food production, storage, and availability.

Climate scientists predict not only accelerated global warming but also greater impacts of extreme events such as droughts and floods. Such extreme events or hazards are likely to create serious social consequences, including famine, displacement, and increased violence. While climate events are becoming more extreme, natural hazards and resulting disasters are not new, and it is important to try to understand how human societies with varying livelihoods and vulnerabilities have responded to and invented solutions to such conditions both in the past and the present. The assumption is that most societies that have survived for long time periods of time have arrived at some resilient solutions, particularly when hazards were recurrent.

Read the full description of the project and the team of researchers behind it.

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Visit our HRAF Research page for the latest news, summaries and links to past and current projects undertaken by HRAF researchers.

About hrafARC


hrafARC: Collaboration opens up significant new opportunities for comparative ethnography-based ‘research and implementation’

HRAF Advanced Research Centers (hrafARC) aims to develop and apply new paradigms for comparative research to address outcomes emerging from human complexity and diversity. hrafARC has an overarching goal of expanding its reach and programs globally and invites other collaborations. The main research center is at the HRAF headquarters in New Haven. There is another research center in Europe. Visit this page to learn more about the launch of hrafARC.