Urbanization and Natural Disasters: South America coverage

Lucí Hidalgo Nunes

Lucí Hidalgo Nunes investigates the link between the recent urbanization processes and the environmental catastrophes in South America – region growing in concentration of people in megalopolises. In urbanization and natural disasters the researcher presents a wide survey of hydrometeorological, climatic, geophisical and biological disasters registered in that portion of the American continent between 1960 and 2009, considering its temporal evolutions regarding the amount of calamitous events, deaths, affected and economic damage.

With the growing urbanization, the planning and prevention activities require increasingly intense financial and intellectual reinforcement. For its research consistency and public interest in problem solving, this book comes as already a marc for a new approach on the subject, that in the future can avoid immense damage and, above all, contribute for human live to be spare of avoidable tragedies.

Original title
Urbanização e desastres naturais
Year of publication

About the authors

Lucí Hidalgo Nunes

Lucí Hidalgo Nunes is a teacher and researcher, graduated and licentiate in Geography, holds a masters in Physical Geography, a doctorate in Engineering, all by University of São Paulo (USP), and is “livre-docente” in Geography in the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP). Is a member of Academie Royale des Sciences D Outre-Mer in Belgium and received in 2001 the Santander Cathedra. She worked in the Brazilian Foundation for Nature Conservation in the University of Mogi das Cruzes (UMC) and in the Geologic Institute (SMA/SP) and since 2000 teaches in the Geography Department in UNICAMP. Was a visiting scientist in Hadley Centre, United Kingdom, and Universitat de Barcelona, Spain. Has experience in climate extremes and impacts in the urban area, natural disasters, environmental perception and publicity of climate related themes.

Author's CV (in portuguese).



1. The natural disasters – socioeconomics and physicals conditioning

1.1 Urbanization and globalization in contemporary socio environmental disarticulation

1.2 Natural disasters inductors and its consequences


2. The South America in perspective

2.1 The natural environment in South America

2.2 Socio environmental and economic aspects of South America

2.3 South American nations relationships with each other and the international community

2.4 Climate change projections for South America


3. The natural disasters in South America

3.1 Database for natural disaster evaluation in South America

3.2 Natural disasters panorama in South America between 1960 and 2009


4. Conclusions




Physical events that concentrate massive energy, such as rainfalls, winds and earthquakes constantly afflict an ever growing stratum of human population. It wouldn’t be exaggerate to state all human beings are at risk of suffering a calamity over their lives because not only the whole world is susceptible to register any disastrous phenomenon, but the crescent mobility of people contributes for even those who live in less susceptible areas may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Besides, the areas and even the kinds of risks have grown excessively.

In all societies, independently of the economic development degree, the concern with the dramatic consequences resultant from environmental praxis well-known depredatory haven’t resumed in preparatory actions for facing these occurrences and so these praxis became constructive elements of new catastrophes: the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in Africa in 2014 unquestionably illustrate this.

If arguments such as divine or nature’s vengeance or the phenomena’s unpredictability were used in the past to justify the absence of effective measures and the continuity of praxis that lead towards disasters, the growth of calamities cannot be ignored any longer.

The fast transformation of natural spaces in productive ones uniforms people and nations, ignoring the richness given by diversity: in a globalized world we eat the same food, watch the same programs and movies, wear the same fashion, listen to the same music, have the same aspirations in life and are equally exposed to natural disasters. Competition relations prevail over the ones of cooperation and the global responsibility, which would involve a single vision of rights and obligations towards consumption, mobility and other styles of modern life, have no space for globalization orchestrates actions based in conducts decides far from the affected sites, disarticulating them. Since globalization operates itself in a planetary scale its effects reach even the nations commanding the globalization process, for its demands modify sites much faster than the physical processes which are central elements in the advent of natural catastrophes, ever growing in recurrence around the world.

This environmental disarticulation, directly associated to a condition of danger, is an intrinsic element of contemporaneity and a testimony that all components of modern life – including science – are not built to respond the real problems afflicting people and their living spaces. Still the protagonism maintenance or the search for bigger preponderance in globalization is unceasing between nations, South American included, who would never have reached a highlight position in its five centuries, crave for a larger projection worldwide, which currently means have some command over the globalization arena. The ways globalization and urbanization contribute to environmental disarticulation without significantly cooperating for a larger South America projection in the global scenario is the theme of this book, highlighting for the period between 1960 and 2009. However, the breakdown scenario emerging from the analysis doesn’t reflect five decades but five centuries of environmental physical transformation and the social relations crystalized in these sites which, although being the physical substrate, constitute a source of permanent and growing danger for the population.