Jamie BaxterWestern Social Science


This syllabus is "dynamic" or a "living document", it will change throughout the term. Come back here before each lecture.

Lecture Schedule

Lecture Topic Readings
1. Introduction - Scope of Course None

Hazards - Overview

Smith Ch 1

Disaster Research 

Discussion Assignment 1

Cutter Ch 2
4. Risk Research Cutter Ch 3
5. Models for Understanding Hazards I - Adjustment Smith Ch 4

Models for Understanding Hazards II - Individual Choice

Assignment 1 Due

Burton, Kates, White Ch 4

Midterm Exam

Discussion Assignment 2

8. Models for Understanding Hazards III - Social Amplification of Risk  Cutter Ch 9 
9. Public Response: Risk and Culture Cutter Ch 13
10. Managing Hazards I - Communicating Hazard Risk Cutter Ch 18 

Video - Battle of Chernoyl (examinable)

Assignment 2 Due, course evaluations

12. Managing Hazards II - Limits of Science and Regulatory Constraints Cutter Ch 20
13. Review for Exam (Q and A)  None

These lectures are also available in the resources section of OWL

Course Description

A survey of the methods and models used to understand human responses to hazards. The course reviews the rich tradition of hazards research in geography, particularly through the lens of social science. While the course focuses on concepts and models for understanding human influences on and responses to hazards, the course will include discussions of both "natural hazards" (e.g., floods, fires, earthquakes) and "technological hazards" (e.g., nuclear technology, genetically modified organisms, terrorism, war) as examples.


This course consists entirely of lectures - no labs. Some of the class time will be devoted to tutorial-style discussion. That is, there will be group break-out (3 or 4 per goup) discussions. Thus, students are responsible for completing the reading for each class prior to lecture.


Lecture: Tuesday, 3 hours, 12:30 - 15:30, SSC 2028


Assignments (two) - 40%

Midterm Exam - 25%

Final Exam - 35%

You must complete all course components to pass the course.

No electronic devices - e.g. phones, calculators, are allowed at the midterm or exam

For a full description of assignments and exams please click here.


A copy of each reading will be available either on-line (see schedule below) or in the Map Library (ground floor SSC). Please do NOT KEEP Map Library copies of readings from these folders - return after 2 hours max. This is an honour system that should save you a lot of money - even moreso than courseware. You DO have to make your own copies though - if desired - or simply borrow, read and return to the appropriate folder.

Two key books from which the readings come are as follows (both are on reserve):

Cutter, S. (Ed.)(1994) Environmental Risks and Hazards Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice Hall.

Smith, K. (2001) Environmental Hazards: Assessing Risk and Reducing Disaster (3rd Edition) New York: Routledge.

University Policies

Accommodation for Illness, Family Death etc.

For UWO Policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness and a downloadable SMC see:


Downloadable Student Medical Certificate (SMC): http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/academic_policies/appeals/medicalform_15JUN.pdf

Students seeking academic accommodation on medical grounds for any missed graded course components must apply to the Academic Counselling office of their home Faculty and provide documentation. Academic accommodation cannot be granted by the instructor or department.

And now some messages from our lawyers...

Mental Illness

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you. Please visit http://www.uwo.ca/uwocom/mentalhealth/ for more information on these resources and on mental health.


The Department of Geography has a zero tolerance policy towards plagiarism. If a student commits plagiarism, the instructor will assign a grade of zero to the assignment. A second instance of plagiarism is regarded as a scholastic offense and will be dealt with according to The University of Western Ontario policy for Scholastic offenses - more on our policy on plagiarism via this link. The most common offense is failing to cite properly - if you quote directly, cite the author! You do not get the benefit of the doubt (you are not presumed innocent until proven guilty) when such offenses are committed. That is, the burden of proof is reversed. Can you prove "it was an accident" (this is a rhetorical question)?

The following is an excerpt from the university secretariat: Scholastic offences are taken seriously and students are directed to read the appropriate policy, specifically, the definition of what constitutes a Scholastic Offence, at the following Web site: http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/academic_policies/appeals/scholastic_discipline_undergrad.pdf

Not citing the work of others is generally the main violation - ignorance is no excuse! See next...


Unfortunately turnitin has "caught" several offenders in my classes, please do not be the next one - it is awkward for everyone involved. If you do original work and write and cite properly you have nothing to worry about. The university has provided this mandatory wording: "All required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to the commercial plagiarism detection software under license to the University for the detection of plagiarism. All papers submitted will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between The University of Western Ontario and Turnitin.com"

Once logged in to Turnitin copy the id and pass below to the appropriate fields at the Turnitin website.

1. Login to turnitin - register if you do not have an account.

2. Join the course with the following credentials:

TA "All Students" ID: 10691701
"All Students" password: Reed