Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 867–877 | Cite as

Production of risk: multiple interacting exposures and unequal vulnerability in coastal communities

  • Greg OulahenEmail author
  • Gordon McBean
  • Dan Shrubsole
  • Stephanie E. Chang
Original Article


Risk is produced by the interaction of exposure to hazards in a place and the vulnerability of the people that live there. Research on the factors that influence vulnerability has advanced a conceptual understanding of the uneven nature of risk. Just as many factors, or determinants, of vulnerability interact to shape risk, so too do multiple exposures. The idea that multiple hazard exposures affect local risk is certainly not new in hazards research, but the literature is missing a refined conceptual framework that can articulate how multiple exposures interact with each other, as well as with determinants of vulnerability, to produce unequal risk. Importantly, this framework must be consistent with vulnerability research and grounded in empirical studies that investigate across the factors that influence exposure and vulnerability. This paper seeks to contribute such a framework. It critically reviews the literature on exposure and vulnerability to hazards and submits a refined production of risk framework. The framework is then applied to a case study of Crescent Beach, a coastal community in British Columbia, Canada, to draw conceptual and practical insights to how multiple interacting exposures and unequal vulnerability produce risk. The study findings reveal that exposures, including flood hazards and the rail line that isolates the community, and determinants of vulnerability, including socioeconomic conditions, institutional arrangements, and amenity values, interact in ways that produce unequal local risk.


Risk Exposure Vulnerability Flood hazards Crescent Beach 



The authors wish to thank residents of Crescent Beach for participating in this study. Christopher Gouett-Hanna created Figure 2. Editor James Ford and the anonymous reviewers provided constructive comments that helped improve the manuscript.

Funding information

Funding in support of the study was provided by the Coastal Cities at Risk project, under Canada’s International Research Initiative on Adaptation to Climate Change, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Greg Oulahen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gordon McBean
    • 2
  • Dan Shrubsole
    • 2
  • Stephanie E. Chang
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of GeographyThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  3. 3.School of Community and Regional PlanningUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Institute for Resources, Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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