Evan Vlachos

Sociology Department

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, Colorado, USA



While floods have been the constant companion of humanity, recent catastrophic inundations all over the planet have raised new questions as to traditional approaches in understanding and in responding to such extreme hydrologic events.  Looking back, many societies have  accepted floods as the inevitable vagaries of nature or acts of God to be endured.  In modern times, however, the interaction between water and society has produced a changing attitude as control over the physical environment has increased and technology and social organization have made possible successful manipulation of natural resources.  Population expansion, rapid urbanization, the increasing occupation of floodplains, and competing and conflicting developmental demands have exacerbated the impacts of floods on society and the environment.  The paper deals with the notion that floods as a “sociological” phenomenon extend beyond hydrological conditions, to encompass consequences on the well-being of human communities.  Furthermore, potential climatic shifts, large scale dislocations, socio-economic changes and national and international events have coalesced into the creation of large scale apprehensions and have focused attention to the need for more integrated, anticipatory and far-reaching water policies and strategies.  In both the popular mind as well as in significant parts of the professional literature, there seems to be an increasing recognition that even the former relative stability of climate tends to disappear.  Indeed, weather oscillations have increased the concern as to present and future impacts of long-term climatic changes on the surrounding environment.  Such views tend to reinforce a free-floating apprehension as to human vulnerability and concerns towards an environment that can be further mismanaged or abused.  The findings that periods of gentle climates between ice ages are becoming much sorter than had ever been thought before have reinforced the preoccupation with the doom and gloom of rapid changes and the proximity of potential catastrophes.  Short-term weather vagaries and simplistic meteorological interpretations get confused with more sober analysis, while prophets of gloom compete for attention as colorful doomsday scenarios unfold in the popular press.