Review from ROAPE Volume 12 Number 33
Natural Disasters: Acts of God or Man? (Wijkman/Timberlake)
If there is still a need to dispel the myth that disasters like drought, flood, earthquake, desertification and even volcanic eruption are only natural phenomena and outside of human agency or control, these two books do it. Both books stress that until recently most work has concentrated too much on examining ‘trigger events’ - such as too little rain or too much - and have focused too little attention on the way in which the disasters associated with such events are fashioned by people and could therefore almost invariably be considerably mitigated. For instance, an earthquake is a ‘natural’ phenomenon with little social effect if it occurs in an unpopulated desert, but a major disaster if it occurs in an area of poor housing in a Latin American or African shanty town. Indeed, we might speak of ‘class quakes’ as much as of ‘earthquakes’ because the worst impact is generally on those buildings outside the building codes, most rickety in construction and most vulnerable to the mildest tremors.