Technology in Context

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Response Essay #4 Technology in Context

The readings from Bijker, Klinenberg, and Kimmelman collectively address the issue of storm water management within a variety of contexts: from its historical development to examples of successful strategies worldwide. Climate change is a global reality, and is prompting national responses to manage the severe weather it brings. Ultimately, the contexts affecting US water management strategy today have and will make the difference between the failures of the past, and a successful and sustainable national strategy for the future. The first reading, by Weibe E. BIjker, compared two historical papers from the 1996 International Conference on Coastal Engineering, specifically the US and Dutch styles , as they differ in the role of civil society, geography, politics, management style and focus. Of the 15 countries involved in the conference, only the US and Dutch papers gave a central role to natural disasters in shaping coastal engineering practice. American civil engineers “recognize the boost that disasters can give to public awareness and coastal engineering research, however little effort is made to follow up on government funded projects due to the costs of monitoring. For this reason, much the focus of US coastal engineering is on documenting the events and effects of natural disasters after they occur, resulting in a lack of effective coastal engineering practice and strategy. In the Netherlands ‘De Ramp’ was influential in both public consciousness and the coastal engineering profession. It served to boost research and practice, and more importantly, spurred forceful strategies to “keep the water out”. This brings us to the key differences in US and Dutch coastal engineering styles: ‘flood hazard mitigation’ versus ‘keeping the water out’. The US model assumes the disaster will occur and its institutions focus on prediction and warning (Weather Service), protection (USACE) and insurance (FEMA). The environmental...
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