, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 378-382
Date: 27 Aug 2014

Risk and resilience lessons from Venice


In the history of disasters in Venice, there are implications for modern times in terms of complex systems management and emerging threats, in particular from examples of risk management and resilience achieved by the Venetian state during outbreaks of the plague. In fourteenth century Venice, risk assessment the way we practice it today would fail to provide meaningful recommendations to reduce the casualty rate of the plague epidemic because the cause and transmission of the disease was not understood. Instead, a set of systemic actions across the social, economic, and transportation networks of the city taken by officials and doctors eventually slowed and arguably stopped the spread of the disease. These latter actions are an early example of what is now considered resilience management. Resilience management improves a complex system’s ability to prepare, absorb, recover, and adapt to unexpected threats and does so by address the capabilities at a system, rather than component, level. Resilience management can be a guide to addressing current issues of population growth and rising sea level in modern day Venice and across the globe. This paper calls for integration of resilience assessment in comprehensive risk and resilience management framework.