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date: 17 June 2024

Natural Hazards and Threats: A Blessing in Disguise Hypothesislocked

Natural Hazards and Threats: A Blessing in Disguise Hypothesislocked

  • Peter Nijkamp, Peter NijkampOpen Universiteit Heerlen, Netherlands
  • Alexandru BanicaAlexandru BanicaAlexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi
  •  and Karima KourtitKarima KourtitOpen Universiteit Netherlands


In the context of the increasing frequency and coverage of natural and manmade hazards and disasters worldwide and their relation to climate change, more and more approaches in resilience studies highlight not just the importance of bouncing back but also the idea of bouncing forward to a higher quality or superior equilibrium state. Building upon an evolutionary approach to resilience, two emerging concepts, prosilience and antifragility, further embrace the positive perspective. The “blessing in disguise” hypothesis suggests that natural threats and disasters can have long-term positive outcomes on regions and cities. However, the recovery process is often challenging, and behavioral and policy responses highly influence the recovery trajectories. Firstly, the literature primarily focuses on quantifying the economic, and to some extent, social and equity impacts of natural disasters, but to a lesser extent, the environmental impact and the overall systemic outcomes. Secondly, there is still little research on the drivers of economic systems disrupted by disasters, and there is little consensus on what it takes not just to return to their initial state but to have an even better long-term performance. After synthesizing the previous quantitative techniques and models to analyze the impact of natural disasters, one should highlight that a positive outcome after a disaster depends on the capacities and capabilities of territories, which encompasses coping with, recovering from, and adapting to a shock and the intelligent transformation of the affected areas. Urban areas, especially large cities, concentrate most of the world’s population and are subject to the highest threats and disasters. Global cities also have the highest capacity and capability to use these events as opportunities for innovation and adaptation. However, the approaches of cities are not similar but highly depend on the mixture and magnitude of the threats or hazards and each city’s intrinsic systemic characteristics (including economic, social, environmental, infrastructural, cultural, and institutional components). Empirical illustrations highlight the spatial differences and typologies of threats and hazards that determine different responses and possibilities for cities to “bounce forward.” A high number of indicators regarding the capabilities of cities are put in relation to the economic risk (to gross domestic product) induced by extreme events. Although the differences between cities from developed and developing countries are well emphasized, improving disaster management makes cities safer and healthier overall. It can also produce sustainable economic growth and increase well-being in the long run. A comprehensive and proactive approach to disaster management is essential, encompassing long-term resilience strategies, spatial considerations, and climate change adaptation. By recognizing the interconnectedness of hazards and the systemic nature of cities, decision-makers can develop targeted intervention policies and effective strategies that promote resilience, sustainability, and well-being in the face of dynamic and uncertain challenges.


  • Resilience
  • Economic Analysis of Natural Hazards
  • Urban Issues

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