Ilan Kelman

University College London & University of Agder (Norway)
Country: United Kingdom

Ilan Kelman ( and Twitter/Instagram @ILANKELMAN) is Professor of Disasters and Health at University College London, England and a Professor II at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. His overall research interest is linking disasters and health, integrating climate change into both. Three main areas are: (i) disaster diplomacy and health diplomacy ; (ii) island sustainability involving safe and healthy communities in isolated locations ; and (iii) risk education for health and disasters

Can Nature Take the Naturalness Out of 'Natural Disasters'?

"Disaster science has long accepted that the term 'natural disaster' is a misnomer, including through a key 1976 paper 'Taking the naturalness out of natural disasters'. Disasters are neither natural nor events, instead emerging from long-term societal processes that create and perpetuate vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities cause disasters over the long-term, principally when resources and power are used to remove options for others to understand and reduce their own vulnerabilities. This conceptualisation and analysis of disasters is often human-centred, defining disasters as having adverse impacts on society as caused by society. Yet disaster science actively embraces non-humans and the more-than-human, as it must. What is the meaning of 'disaster' when society is not directly impacted? Irrespective of humanity influencing the planet, and moving into outer space, nature's phenomena lead to significant ecosystem changes, non-human casualties, and existential threats against species, biomes, and planets. When nature affects nature, do 'natural disasters' or even 'disasters' occur? Who determines the label(s) and who evaluates the extent of naturalness or disasterness? How much is fundamentally linked to human values and interests? Exploring these questions, often without reaching satisfactory answers, leads to philosophisations and implications for 'disaster' as a societal process."