Incredibly, the ten most costly catastrophes in US history have all
been natural disasters - seven of them hurricanes - and all have
occurred since 1989, a period, ironically, that Congress has dubbed
the Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. Why this tremendous
plague on our houses? While some claim that nature is the problem,
in fact, as environmental historian Ted Steinberg explains,
historically speaking, much of the death and destruction has been
well within the realm of human control. Surveying more than a
century of losses from weather and seismic extremes, Steinberg
exposes the fallacy of seeing such calamities as simply random
events.; Acts of God explores the unnatural history of natural
calamity, the decisions of business leaders and government
officials that have paved the way for the greater losses of life
and property, especially among those least able to withstand such
blows - America's poor, elderly, and minorities. Seeing nature or
God as the primary culprit, Steinberg argues, has helped to paper
over the fact that, in truth, some Americans are better protected
from the violence of nature than their counterparts lower down the
socioeconomic ladder. How else can we explain that the hardest hit
areas have been mobile home parks and other low-income
neighbourhoods?; Beginning with the 1886 Charleston and 1906 San
Francisco earthquakes, and continuing to the present, Steinberg
spotlights the defective approach to natural hazards taken by real
estate interests, the media, and policymakers. By understating the
extent of storm damage in news reports and offering quick repairs
and cosmetic solutions to damaged property, fundamental flaws in
the status quo go unremedied, class divisions are maintained, and
unsafe practices continue unquestioned. Even today, with our
increased scientific knowledge, he shows that reckless building
continues unabated in seismically active areas and flood-prone
coastal plains, often at taxpayer expense.; Sure to provoke
discussion, Acts of God is a call to action that must be heard
before the next disaster hits.
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