New webinar series on disaster ethics begins April 6

A group of people wearing face masks

The nine-part webinar series titled “Exploring Ethics: Lessons from COVID-19 and Other Catastrophes” kicks off on Wednesday, April 6 and will run on select Wednesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. until June 2022.  

With nine speakers participating across multiple continents, collaborating universities of this joint project include York University, Roskilde University and Arkansas Tech University. By sharing experiences, presenting current research and facilitating discussions, the presenters intend to share knowledge between academics and practitioners to identify research priorities to help create a better network of researchers and practitioners involved in this field. They aim to ground the more abstract concept of disaster ethics into practical guidelines which they hope will become engrained in the consciousness of researchers and practitioners alike.  

The first webinar of the series will be led by York University’s David Etkin, a professor in the School of Administrative Studies at the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.   

The April 6 discussion, “Disaster Ethics in the 21st Century: How Context Shifts Morality,” will explore the application of ethical theory to disasters is very dependent upon context and how the context of the 21st century is very different from historical ones. The webinar will ask how this new context suggests that a shift in values is needed, what are these shifts and how well society is embracing them.   

Upcoming webinar topics include “Disparities and Distribution” on April 13 to discuss the ethics surrounding the distribution of COVID infection and vaccine allocation, with a focus on demonstrating that poor outcomes of the pandemic are clustered in disadvantaged communities. On April 20, the discussion titled “Scarcity, Justice, and Health Crisis Leadership” will focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed scarcities in many domains: medical, civic, economic and ideological.   

Other webinar topics include: “The Ethics of Access and Equity in Emergency Management” (April 27), “Ethical Issues in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Are Lessons Ever Learned” (May 4), and “Zen and the Art of Disaster Management” (May 11) led by Associate Professor Peter Timmerman at York’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.  

Timmerman’s discussion highlights how in Zen Buddhism, a disruptive problem is given to students to meditate on and to solve. The talk will explore how great faith, great exertion and great doubt are applied to untying the knots that bind – especially great doubt. Timmerman will further explore how disasters are periods of great doubt and how Buddhist and Taoist principles apply to unravelling the knots in disaster management.  

The final three webinars to take place in the series are “The WHO’s Activities on Ethics & COVID and Lessons Learned” (May 18), “Lockdown: A Public Health Disaster?” (May 25), and “Disaster Ethics: Are We Asking the Right Questions for Doing the Right Thing” (June 1).  

This project is supported by the Carlsberg Foundation. Affiliates include the Canadian Risk and Hazards Network, CIFAL York, and York University’s Transformative Disaster Risk Governance Unit.   

For more information about the series and registration details, visit the event webpage