The Science & Politics Behind the Game - Different Cultural Approaches to Risk
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Different Cultural Approaches to Risk
When it comes to preparing for weather-related disasters such as drought, there are a couple different approaches.
1. Fatalism. This approach often occurs when the major risks are difficult to predict and too costly to mitigate (as is often the case in developing economies). While precautions and preparation to physically prepare for the disaster may appear lacking, there is often significant psychological and spiritual preparation. Societies that take a fatalistic approach may suffer large economic damages from disasters but maintain resiliency for the long term recovery via community institutions.
2. Statistical risk management.This approach is used when risks can be quantified and mitigation costs estimated and prioritized. It serves as the basis of the insurance industry. In 2011, researchers made a report to predict impacts and plan strategies for a hundred-year drought in California. While in most cases delivering rational and economical outcomes, statistical risk management is less reliable when one enters uncharted territory (i.e. climate change) and can be caught off guard by by unexpected black swan events. The subsequent jolt can lead to social unrest, blaming, and mental health issues as this approach to risk management disaster challenges the basic assumptions and worldview of a society.
3. Denial. If the risk is rare enough, it's easy to pretend it doesn't exist, as odds are good that your number won't come up in your lifetime or time horizon. However, denial is not always a bad attitude to have, especially given a media environment that often exaggerates risks for profit or political gain. In cases where perceptions of risk can be a self fulfilling prophecy, denial is actually an important survival strategy. For example, if people think business will go down in an area, they may avoid investing there, causing business to actually go down.
The Californian mythology of being a place for people to strike it rich and reinvent themselves does contain a good amount of denial. At the same time, fatalistic and statistical attitudes also have significant roles in the state's economy and culture. Preparation for long term drought will require a bit of all three: calculated mitigation strategies, enough positive attitude to not give up, and being ready to cope with the times when things are bad and there's not much one can do about it.