Winter weariness; civics expert on coping with snow

February 4, 2014  

Daniel Aldrich

Daniel Aldrich 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The tough winter weather continues to challenge communities and test the resilience of those who work to provide assistance to those in need, says a Purdue University expert.

"This is definitely a major challenge for private and government organizations that have spent large amounts on snow removal," says Daniel P. Aldrich, an associate professor of political science. "Some have been able to use collective action, where volunteers inside the organization work together to clear the driveways, parking lots and streets. Others with fewer, or older, members may not be able to do so. Others, especially local government institutions and nongovernmental organizations, may find their financial resources drained."

While the ongoing harsh winter weather does not reflect the severity of a natural disaster, there are parallels with how communities come together to care for each other and how these relationships are defined in advance. Aldrich's research shows that people who have stronger individual friendships, community connections and civic involvement are more likely to have access to resources and information that can help them during community struggles.

"For example, snow is a massive problem for the elderly because they often lack the stamina to shovel snow or remove it themselves and because the hazards they face are greater, such as a broken hip if they fall," he says. "Instead, faith-based organizations often undertake snow removal for free in their local communities. This underscores the power of horizontal associations and voluntary work.

"However, some resources, both financial and human, are becoming exhausted as the winter weather continues to linger and produce more snow. And this fatigue could play a role in how communities and organizations transition to spring, which often produces severe weather."

Aldrich is the author of "Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery" and "Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West." He has studied disaster recovery and community rebuilding following the 2011 Japan tsunami, 2005 Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in Tamil Nadu, the 1923 earthquake in Tokyo and the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan. 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Source: Daniel P. Aldrich, 765-494-4190,    

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