We live in an age of risks, where we must be aware of the various risks in our environment, and control and
manage our personal and societal risk levels. Risk management may indeed be considered to be a desirable
attribute of modern industrialised society. Yet it is difficult to compare risks from different sources, and even
more difficult to make trade-offs between these different risks. It is therefore difficult, at a personal and societal
level, to manage risks in a coherent fashion. The result may be incoherent risk strategies, whether at a personal or
societal level. We may be killing more people than we ‘need’, and spending money where there is little
comparative safety return.
The question can be raised whether coherency in risk decisions can be objectively described; if it can
whether it is desirable to achieve it and if it is why this seems not to be the case at present. In this introduction an
attempt is made to set out the issue, to see why we do not have coherence, and how we may move towards such
coherence if indeed we want it. This is done in four steps: first outlining some of the issues from a ‘popular’
perspective, then in the second part trying to capture the ‘elements’ and roots of the risk coherence problem from
a more scientific perspective. The third section tries to model some of these elements to gain further insight and
understanding, and then the fourth suggests some ways forward.