Natural Hazards in the Mountain Environment: Risk Management and Responsibility

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  • Project duration: September 2020 - December 2022
  • Project status: ongoing
  • Funding:
    Provincial P.-L.P. 14. Research projects (Province BZ funding /Project)

The desire to enjoy nature is bringing a growing amount of people closer to the mountains. As pleasing as this trend may be, it also leads to an increase in alpine accidents. To decide on the resulting, highly complex liability questions it is necessary to make nature as tangible as possible for the sake of the law. However, an inherent dichotomy can be seen in this regard: nature is rather unpredictable while law is rigid and clumsy in its normativity. Particularly criminal law is dependent on precise parameters to assess liability. Through interdisciplinary research and an enhanced mutual understanding, this project aims to bring law and nature closer to each other.

On the mountain, a permanent residual risk can never be excluded. Additionally, alpine accidents are often the result of a close victim-offender interaction. This situation requires to disengage from a purely offender-focused view and to better incorporate the victim’s self-responsible action into the criminal assessment.

A first component of the project will be the provision of an up to date overview of legislation, case law and scholarship in Italy and Austria, from a comparative law perspective. The desk research will mainly focus on residual risk and the legal relevance of self-responsibility.

A second component is rather natural and social science oriented. Empirical quantitative and qualitative research on people’s behavior and beliefs in alpine environment, especially focusing on risk perception and decision-making psychology, will be carried out. Knowledge and perception about mountain risks play a decisive role for a self-responsible decision. The concept of ‘residual risk’ will also be analyzed from a natural science point of view. The research findings’ legal conceptualization will identify paths to meet the challenge to establish culpability in a reasonable and fair manner. External partners will contribute at several stages, bringing in their specific scientific and empirical expertise and fostering synergies.

The findings will contribute to the relevant scientific discussion within legal, social, and natural sciences. Additionally, the project aims to develop guidelines, good practices, and recommendations, implementable beyond this specific project. They aim to create a ‘risk culture’ among the population and increase its resilience towards mountain hazards. A transparent participation in risk governance processes will increase people’s and society’s risk competence and therefore enhance mountain safety.

Contact person: Lydia Pedoth lydia.pedoth@eurac.edu

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