Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans

06
Nov
10

There no such thing as a natural disaster

A picture of the 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Krab...

Image via Wikipedia

Sounds crazy but think about it.  What is a natural disaster?  Tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and the list goes on.  We call these natural disasters.  They aren’t.  These are natural phenomena that have occurred on this planet long before humans ever came into existence.  This is critical to dealing with mitigation and recovery to “natural disasters”.

We have long blamed nature for destroying lives and property.  We try to engineer our way out of disaster.  This is flawed thinking, I understand it but it’s flawed.  The reason it’s flawed is that we think that nature is our enemy.  This is manifested in our over consumption, our wastefulness, and in the fact that we are now just beginning to appreciate nature with the “green” movement.  When it comes to emergency management it’s dangerously clear that we haven’t really gotten to that point where we understand our place in nature.

We build houses in floodplains, we build cities below sea level, we are apathetic at best when it comes to the natural hazards that are present in our lives.  When something like the tornado that stuck Greensburg, Kansas happens, we get angry and ask “why us?”.  It’s because we live intertwined with these processes.  The goal is to find a way to coexist with these hazards.  That means not putting ourselves unnecessarily at risk and planning accordingly for risks that we are willing to accept.  Planning for risks is something we can do now and communities all over the country have been doing for a long time.  It’s the bread and butter of emergency management.  Not putting ourselves at risk is more complicated.  The obvious example is New Orleans.  It’s a city that seemed destined for destruction.  They try to engineer their way out of it, there was an apathy in the government about the true dangers, and the people love their city and don’t want to leave.  So is it logical to rebuild the city when it’s at just as much risk today as ever?  This is the great question that citizens, government, responders, and emergency managers struggle to answer.  People want to live in inherently dangerous areas and expect to be safe.

I should note that I am a geographer by training.  I studied how disasters affect humans and studied these natural hazards and the dynamics behind the hazards that affect us.  One thing I have learned and has benefited me greatly is thinking about emergency management critically and really analyzing why things happen and this includes the social concepts such as understanding why people choose to live in areas that are prone to disasters.

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