Disaster Law By Kristian Cedervall Lauta, Routledge, 2015

AuthorW. John Hopkins
PositionAssociate Professor, Law School, Unviersity of Canterbury
B K C L, R, 
W. J H*
Disaster law is a young discipline. Indeed, it is youthfu l enough for some to
remain sceptical about its very existence. Nevertheless, despite the academic
debates as to the boundaries and ex istence of the concept as a distinct academic
subject, there is no doubt that law and disasters is an increa sing focus. ese
legal developments can be traced to an increasing interest in disaster risk
management (DRM) more broadly and its emergence from the shadows in
the aftermath of severa l recent events. While the Indian Ocean Tsunami may
have placed the study of disaster mana gement front and centre, globally, it
was the trifecta of K atrina, Canterbury a nd Fukushima that created a rude
awakening for the developed world. Disasters are not merely something of
concern to developing states. For reasons that are too complex to explore here,
the interconnected nature of the world and the fragilit y of developed societies
means that vulnerability is relative and encompasses al l societies.
It is this generalisation of disasters t hat has taken the eld of disaster
management, if not to the heart of state decision mak ing, then at least
somewhere relevant, rather than its previous place in t he forgotten extremities.
However, although DRM has increasingly developed as a coherent subject
bringing together scientists, engineers and social scientists, the legal academy
has seemed reluctant to engage coherently with the subject. ose that have
done so have largely engaged in relatively functional analysis or practica l
studies on the delivery of specic goals. For this reason, disaster law as a
discipline has seemed somewhat adrif t and more a servant of others than
a discipline of its own. Cedervall L auta in his book puts an end to this
theoretical lacuna by providing a robust a nd rigorous basis upon which to
build a more t heoretica lly coherent discipline.
e text sets out explicitly to achieve this end, something it does through
two distinct methodologies. e rst section of the work develops a strong
theoretical framework linking legal development with wider understandings
of the nature of disaster outside the legal eld. is is followed by two
comparative sections exami ning the legal framework of disaster management
and disaster responsibility. A nal chapter addresse s the overall development
of disaster law as a legal d iscipline and the politico-legal nature of the
emerging subject area.
* Dr. W. John Hopkins, Associate Prof essor, Law School, Unviersity of Canterbu ry

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