Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
For much of the 20th century the State of Florida presented itself as a tropical paradise. However, both public and private interests in the state have transformed Florida's varied environments for purposes of development of agribusiness, mass tourism, and migration (and population growth) with all the infrastructural and environmental change demanded by each. Although the climate has provided benefits, it also presents a number of natural hazards that currently combine with degraded environmental conditions and conditions of social vulnerability to trigger disasters that destroy livelihoods, cripple cultural traditions, alter political power relations, uproot communities, undermine key environmental features, and incur enormous economic losses. Florida, in this sense, presents us with a complex of development strategies that, while increasing gross domestic product, also distributes both benefits and costs unequally. Part of that inequality is manifested in patterns of exposure and vulnerability to natural hazards and in the recovery from disasters that are triggered. The looming onset of climate change promises to exacerbate this situation and will require serious efforts to mitigate and adapt to these future events and processes through significant changes in current approaches to the human use of nature, as expressed predominantly in the development policies and practices that have driven both exposure and vulnerability to hazards. This paper will analyze the role of development in the construction and distribution of risk and vulnerability at the intersection of natural hazards and climate change effects in Florida.