Defining 'vulnerability': conflicts, complexities and implications for coastal zone management

Green, Colin H. and McFadden, Loraine (2007) Defining 'vulnerability': conflicts, complexities and implications for coastal zone management. Journal of Coastal Research . ISSN 0749-0208 [Article]


This paper argues that important insights for improved coastal management can be gained by examining
complexities involved in defining vulnerable coastal environments and communities. ‘Vulnerability’ has
emerged as an important concept in understanding and managing coastal environments: yet a significant degree
of conflict has been associated to the use of the term. Definitions of ‘vulnerability’ have been contested in terms
of the nature of, and the driving forcing underpinning, vulnerable environments. However, conflicts also
surround the very concept itself, in particular efforts towards identifying a ‘true’ definition of the term. The
paper suggests that such conflicts highlight the fact that the definition of a coast as vulnerable is not a neutral act.
Conceptualising ‘vulnerability’ must be considered not only as a technical matter but in terms of social
relationships between those involved in coastal management. This necessitates that scientists, policy-makers and
other stakeholders involved in managing the coast, consider vulnerability analysis a comprehensive systems
assessment of coastal environments and communities. The learning process, through which such a
comprehensive assessment is achieved, is critical to creating new and more useful insights into the behaviour of
the total coastal system. Simplifying vulnerability for coastal management has occurred at the cost of the
essential complexity of coastal systems. If vulnerability analysis is to make a significant contribution to
sustainable management of 21st Century coasts, we must be certain to retain this complexity in our approaches to
understanding the term.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Natural Sciences
ISI Impact: 0
Item ID: 258
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2008 15:55
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:11

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