Disaster relief as we know it did not exist when the deadliest tornado in U.S. history gouged a path from southeast Missouri through southern Illinois and into southwestern Indiana. The tri-state tornado of 1925 hugged the ground for 219 miles, generated wind speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour, and killed 695 people. Drawing on survivor interviews, public records, and newspaper archives, America’s Deadliest Twister offers a detailed account of the storm, but more important, it describes life in the region at that time as well as the tornado’s lasting cultural impact, especially on southern Illinois.
Author Geoff Partlow follows the storm from town to town, introducing us to the people most affected by the tornado, including the African American population of southern Illinois. Their narratives, along with the stories of the heroes who led recovery efforts in the years following, add a hometown perspective to the account of the storm itself.
In the discussion of the aftermath of the tornado, Partlow examines the lasting social and economic scars in the area, but he also looks at some of the technological firsts associated with this devastating tragedy. Partlow shows how relief efforts in the region began to change the way people throughout the nation thought about disaster relief, which led to the unified responses we are familiar with today.
When houses are flattened, towns submerged, and people stranded without electricity or even food, we attribute the suffering to “natural disasters” or “acts of God.” But what if they’re neither? What if we, as a society, are bringing these catastrophes on ourselves?
That’s the provocative theory of Catastrophe in the Making, the first book to recognize Hurricane Katrina not as a “perfect storm,” but a tragedy of our own making—and one that could become commonplace.
The authors, one a longtime New Orleans resident, argue that breached levees and sloppy emergency response are just the most obvious examples of government failure. The true problem is more deeply rooted and insidious, and stretches far beyond the Gulf Coast.
Based on the false promise of widespread prosperity, communities across the U.S. have embraced all brands of “economic development” at all costs. In Louisiana, that meant development interests turning wetlands into shipping lanes. By replacing a natural buffer against storm surges with a 75-mile long, obsolete canal that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, they guided the hurricane into the heart of New Orleans and adjacent communities. The authors reveal why, despite their geographic differences, California and Missouri are building—quite literally—toward similar destruction.
Too often, the U.S. “growth machine” generates wealth for a few and misery for many. Drawing lessons from the most expensive “natural” disaster in American history, Catastrophe in the Making shows why thoughtless development comes at a price we can ill afford.
Employing original fieldwork, historical analysis, and sociological theory, Sekine and Bonanno probe how Japan’s food and agriculture sectors have been shaped by the global push toward privatization and corporate power, known in the social science literature as neoliberalism. They also examine related changes that have occurred after the triple disaster of March 2011 (the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor), noting that reconstruction policy has favored deregulation and the reduction of social welfare.
Sekine and Bonanno stress the incompatibility of the requirements of neoliberalism with the structural and cultural conditions of Japanese agri-food. Local farmers’ and fishermen’s emphasis on community collective management of natural resources, they argue, clashes with neoliberalism’s focus on individualism and competitiveness. The authors conclude by pointing out the resulting fundamental contradiction: The lack of recognition of this incompatibility allows the continuous implementation of market solutions to problems that originate in these very market mechanisms.
The Earth is a beautiful and wondrous planet, but also frustratingly complex and, at times, violent: much of what has made it livable can also cause catastrophe. Volcanic eruptions create land and produce fertile, nutrient-rich soil, but they can also bury forests, fields, and entire towns under ash, mud, lava, and debris. The very forces that create and recycle Earth’s crust also spawn destructive earthquakes and tsunamis. Water and wind bring and spread life, but in hurricanes they can leave devastation in their wake. And while it is the planet’s warmth that enables life to thrive, rapidly increasing temperatures are causing sea levels to rise and weather events to become more extreme.
Today, we know more than ever before about the powerful forces that can cause catastrophe, but significant questions remain. Why can’t we better predict some natural disasters? What do scientists know about them already? What do they wish they knew? In Dangerous Earth, marine scientist and science communicator Ellen Prager explores the science of investigating volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides, rip currents, and—maybe the most perilous hazard of all—climate change. Each chapter considers a specific hazard, begins with a game-changing historical event (like the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens or the landfall and impacts of Hurricane Harvey), and highlights what remains unknown about these dynamic phenomena. Along the way, we hear from scientists trying to read Earth’s warning signs, pass its messages along to the rest of us, and prevent catastrophic loss.
A sweeping tour of some of the most awesome forces on our planet—many tragic, yet nonetheless awe-inspiring—Dangerous Earth is an illuminating journey through the undiscovered, unresolved, and in some cases unimagined mysteries that continue to frustrate and fascinate the world’s leading scientists: the “wish-we-knews” that ignite both our curiosity and global change.
In the spring and summer of 1927, the Mississippi River and its tributaries flooded from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico, tearing through seven states, sometimes spreading out to nearly one hundred miles across. Pete Daniel’s Deep’n as It Come, available again in a new format, chronicles the worst flood in the history of the South and re-creates, with extraordinary immediacy, the Mississippi River’s devastating assault on property and lives.
Daniel weaves his narrative with newspaper and firsthand accounts, interviews and survivors, official reports, and over 140 contemporary photographs. The story of the common refugee who suffered most of the effects of the flood emerges alongside the details of the massive rescue and relief operation—one of the largest ever mounted in the United States. The title, Deep’n as It Come, is a phrase from Cora Lee Campbell’s early description of he approaching water, which, Daniel writes, “moved at a pace of some fourteen miles per day,” and in its movement and sound, “had the eeriness of a full eclipse of t he sun, unsettling, chilling.”
“The contradictions of sorrow and humor. . . death and salvation, despair and hope, calm and panic—all reveal the human dimension” in this compassionate and unforgettable portrait of common people confronting a great natural disaster.
On August 28, 2011, after pounding the Caribbean and the U.S. Eastern seaboard for more than a week, Hurricane Irene finally made landfall in New Jersey. As the storm headed into New England, it was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm. And by Sunday afternoon, national news outlets were giving postmortems on the damage. Except for some flooding in low-lying areas, New York City—Irene’s biggest target—had escaped its worst-case scenario. Story over. But the story wasn’t over. As Irene’s eye drifted north, its bands of heavy rains twisted westward over Vermont’s Green Mountains. The mountains forced these bands upward, wringing the rain out of them like water from a sponge. Streams and rivers were transformed into torrents of brown water and debris, gouging mountainsides, reshaping valleys, washing out roads, pulling apart bridges, and carrying away homes, livestock, and automobiles. For weeks, mountain towns were isolated, with no way in or out, and thousands of people were left homeless. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, it fell on the shoulders of ordinary Vermonters to help victims and rebuild the state. Deluge is the complete story of the floods, the rescue, and the recovery, as seen through the eyes of the people who lived through them: Wilmington’s Lisa Sullivan, whose bookstore was flooded, and town clerk Susie Haughwout, who saved the town records; Tracy Payne, who lost her home in Jamaica—everything in it, and the land on which it sat; Geo Honigford in South Royalton, who lost his crops, but put his own mess on hold to help others in the town; the men who put U.S. Route 4 back together at breakneck speed; and the entire village of Pittsfield, completely isolated after the storm, and its inspirational story of real community.
David Strohmaier’s long career as a firefighter has given him intimate knowledge of wildfire and its complex role in the natural world of the American West. It has also given him rare understanding of the painful losses that are a consequence of fire. Strohmaier addresses our ambivalence about fire and the realities of loss to it—of life, human and animal, of livelihoods, of beloved places. He also examines the process of renewal that is yet another consequence of fire, from the infusion of essential nutrients into the soil, to the sprouting of seeds that depend on fire for germination, to the renewal of species as the land restores itself. Ultimately, according to Strohmaier, living with fire is a matter of choices, of “seeing the connection between loss on a personal scale and loss on a landscape scale: in relationship with persons, and in relationship to and with the land.” We must cultivate a longer perspective, he says, accepting that loss is a part of life and that “humility and empathy and care are not only core virtues between humans but are also essential virtues in our attitudes and actions toward the earth.” Drift Smoke is a powerful and moving meditation on wildfire by someone who has seen it in all its terror and beauty, who has lost colleagues and beloved terrain to its ferocity, and who has also seen the miracle of new life sprouting in the ashes. The debate over the role and control of fire in the West will not soon end, but Strohmaier’s contribution to the debate will help all of us better appreciate both the complexity of the issues and the possibilities of hitherto unconsidered solutions that will allow us to inhabit a place where fire is a natural, and needed, part of life.
The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The South Asian Tsunami of 2004. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Hurricane Katrina in 2005. All of these are natural disasters that not only caused massive devastation but actually changed the course of history, and have influenced our reactions to and perspectives on disasters ever since.
Spanning two millennia, The End is Nigh provides a detailed history of natural disasters around the world and how they have shaped our cultural beliefs and our practical planning. Henrik Svensen draws from many eyewitness accounts to reveal the personal stories of the victims of natural disasters. Through them, we are reminded that while the disasters are natural phenomena, victims often react in similar ways seeking to explain the disaster within the context of an omen or a divine warning. A geologist, Svensen also explores the science behind the occurrence of specific disasters, and he examines whether climate change is creating an environment where natural disasters are more frequent and more deadly.
The End is Nigh is as instructive as it is insightful and will appeal to fans of history and science, as well as policy makers and all those seeking to better prepare for future calamities.
“The End is Nigh is a great example of storytelling across scientific disciplines, and in gripping prose it spans geology, geography and history, anthropology, sociology, and the history of religion.”—Apollon
Contemporary depictions of famine and disaster are dominated by female images. The Feminization of Famine examines these representations, exploring, in particular, the literature arising from the Irish "Great Famine" of the 1840s and the Bengali famine of the 1940s. Kelleher illuminates recurring motifs: the prevalence of mother and child images, the scrutiny of women’s starved bodies, and the reliance on the female figure to express the largely "inexpressible" reality of famine. Questioning what gives these particularly feminine images their affective power and analyzing the responses they generate, this historical critique reveals striking parallels between these two "great" famines and current representations of similar natural disasters and catastrophes. Kelleher begins with a critical reading of the novels and short stories written about the Irish famine over the last 150 years, from the novels of William Carleton and Anthony Trollope to the writings of Liam O’Flaherty and John Banville. She then moves on to unveil a lesser-known body of literature—works written by women. This literature is read in the context of a rich variety of other sources, including eye-witness accounts, memoirs, journalistic accounts, and famine historiography. Concluding with a reading of the twentieth-century accounts of the famine in Bengal, this book reveals how gendered representations have played a crucial role in defining notions of famine.
Most journalists and academics attribute the rise of wildfires in the western United States to the USDA Forest Service's successful fire-elimination policies of the twentieth century. However, in Fire Management in the American West, Mark Hudson argues that although a century of suppression did indeed increase the hazard of wildfire, the responsibility does not lie with the USFS alone. The roots are found in the Forest Service's relationships with other, more powerful elements of society--the timber industry in particular.
Drawing on correspondence both between and within the Forest Service and the major timber industry associations, newspaper articles, articles from industry outlets, and policy documents from the late 1800s through the present, Hudson shows how the US forest industry, under the constraint of profitability, pushed the USFS away from private industry regulation and toward fire exclusion, eventually changing national forest policy into little more than fire policy.
More recently, the USFS has attempted to move beyond the policy of complete fire suppression. Interviews with public land managers in the Pacific Northwest shed light on the sources of the agency's struggles as it attempts to change the way we understand and relate to fire in the West.
Fire Management in the American West will be of great interest to environmentalists, sociologists, fire managers, scientists, and academics and students in environmental history and forestry.
"Frightening...Firestorm comes alive when Struzik discusses the work of offbeat scientists." —New York Times Book Review
"Comprehensive and compelling." —Booklist
"A powerful message." —Kirkus
"Should be required reading." —Library Journal
For two months in the spring of 2016, the world watched as wildfire ravaged the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. Firefighters named the fire “the Beast.” It acted like a mythical animal, alive with destructive energy, and they hoped never to see anything like it again. Yet it’s not a stretch to imagine we will all soon live in a world in which fires like the Beast are commonplace. A glance at international headlines shows a remarkable increase in higher temperatures, stronger winds, and drier lands– a trifecta for igniting wildfires like we’ve rarely seen before.
This change is particularly noticeable in the northern forests of the United States and Canada. These forests require fire to maintain healthy ecosystems, but as the human population grows, and as changes in climate, animal and insect species, and disease cause further destabilization, wildfires have turned into a potentially uncontrollable threat to human lives and livelihoods.
Our understanding of the role fire plays in healthy forests has come a long way in the past century. Despite this, we are not prepared to deal with an escalation of fire during periods of intense drought and shorter winters, earlier springs, potentially more lightning strikes and hotter summers. There is too much fuel on the ground, too many people and assets to protect, and no plan in place to deal with these challenges.
In Firestorm, journalist Edward Struzik visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly. Struzik weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination and points to the ways that we, and the wilder inhabitants of the forests around our cities and towns, might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.
In the early months of 2020, the world’s attention was riveted on Australia, where the nation’s iconic wildlife fought for survival in the face of unprecedented wildfires. Images of koalas drinking from firefighters’ water bottles went viral and became the global face of a catastrophe that would kill as many as three billion animals. Known as the Black Summer, the fire season was responsible for more wildlife deaths and near-extinctions than any other single event in Australian history. Flames of Extinction, written by a journalist at the heart of this news coverage, is the first book to tell the stories of Australia’s record-setting fires, focusing on the wild animals and plants that will be forever changed.
As news of the fires spread around the world, journalist John Pickrell was inundated with requests for articles about the danger to Australia’s wildlife. The picture seemed grim, from charred koalas to flames that burned so hot not even animal skeletons remained. But Pickrell’s reporting exposed a larger picture of hope. Flames of Extinction tells the story of the scientists, wildlife rehabilitators, and community members who came together to save wildlife and protect them in the future.
As climate change intensifies and devastating wildfires become more commonplace, Australia’s Black Summer offers a poignant warning to the rest of the world. Through evocative and urgent storytelling, Flames of Extinction puts readers on the ground to witness the aftermath of one of Australia’s greatest tragedies and inside the inspiring effort to save lives.
In most cities today, fire has been reduced to a sporadic and isolated threat. But throughout history the constant risk of fire has left a deep and lasting imprint on almost every dimension of urban society. This volume, the first truly global study of urban conflagration, shows how fire has shaped cities throughout the modern world, from Europe to the imperial colonies, major trade entrepôts, and non-European capitals, right up to such present-day megacities as Lagos and Jakarta. Urban fire may hinder commerce or even spur it; it may break down or reinforce barriers of race, class, and ethnicity; it may serve as a pretext for state violence or provide an opportunity for displays of state benevolence. As this volume demonstrates, the many and varied attempts to master, marginalize, or manipulate fire can turn a natural and human hazard into a highly useful social and political tool.
Shortly after 5:00 P.M. On Wednesday, May 27, 1896, a Herculean tornado shattered the St. Louis Area. Within twenty minutes, 137 people had perished in St. Louis, with 118 dead across the river in East St. Louis. Along a ten-mile swath of devastation, the tornado destroyed 311 buildings, heavily damaged 7,200 others and caused significant harm to 1,300 more. Even today, that powerful cyclone of a century ago "remains the single deadliest incident to befall the St. Louis area," according to Tim O’Neil of the St.Louis Post-Dispatch, who wrote the foreword for this historic reprint of a book originally published by the Cyclone Publishing Company.
Heavily illustrated by photographs of the damage, The Great Cyclone was compiled from stories in the city’s daily newspapers—the Globe-Democrat, the Post-Dispatch, and, most notably, the old St. Louis Republic. O’Neil points out that "the book’s compilers are not identified, but their glowing praise of the ‘superb descriptive composition’ in the Republic provides a good guess about where most of them worked."
In this insightful, compelling, and highly readable work, Melanie Lenart, an award-winning journalist and science writer who holds a PhD in Natural Resources and Global Change, examines global warming with the trained eye of a professional scientist. And she presents the science in a clear, straightforward manner. Why does the planet’s warming produce stronger hurricanes, rising seas, and larger floods? Simple, says Lenart. The Earth is just doing what comes naturally. Just as humans produce sweat to cool off on a hot day, the planet produces hurricanes, floods, wetlands, and forests to cool itself off.
Life in the Hothouse incorporates Lenart’s extensive knowledge of climate science—including the latest research in climate change—and the most current scientific theories, including Gaia theory, which holds that the Earth has some degree of climate control “built in.” As Lenart points out, scientists have been documenting stronger hurricanes and larger floods for many years. There is a good reason for this, she notes. Hurricanes help cool the ocean surface and clear the air of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. From the perspective of Gaia theory, these responses are helping to slow the ongoing global warming and Lenart expounds upon this in a clear and understandable fashion.
There is hope, Lenart writes. If we help sustain Earth's natural defense systems, including wetlands and forests, perhaps Mother Earth will no longer need to rely as much on the cooling effects of what we call "natural disasters"—many of which carry a human fingerprint. At a minimum, she argues, these systems can help us survive the heat.
From Amelia Island just south of Georgia to Key West's southern tip, beaches are one of Florida's greatest assets. Yet these beaches are in danger: rapid structural development on a highly erodible coast make them vulnerable to some of nature's greatest storms. The same development that has been driven by the attraction of beautiful beaches and coastal amenities now threatens those very resources. In turn, coastal structures are at risk from sea-level rise, shoreline retreat, winter storms, and hurricanes. Most of the methods for reducing losses associated with storms protect property only in the short term—at a growing cost in dollars and loss of natural habitat in the long term.
Living with Florida's Atlantic Beaches is a guide to mitigating or reducing losses of property, human life, and natural resources by living with, rather than just at, the shore. This illustrated volume provides an introduction to coastal processes and geology as well as a brief history of coastal hazards and short-sighted human responses. This is the first volume in the Living with the Shore series to discuss the significant long-term impact of dredge-and-fill beach construction on living marine resources. Guidance is provided for long-term risk reduction in the form of tips on storm-resistant construction and site evaluation; maps for evaluating relative vulnerability to hazards are also included. A brief review of coastal regulations will help property owners understand and navigate the various permit requirements for developing coastal property. Living with Florida's Atlantic Beaches is an invaluable source of information for everyone from the curious beach visitor to the community planner, from the prudent property investor to the decision-making public official.
On a March evening in 1964, ten-year-old Tom Horning awoke near midnight to find his yard transformed. A tsunami triggered by Alaska’s momentous Good Friday earthquake had wreaked havoc in his Seaside, Oregon, neighborhood. It was, as far as anyone knew, the Pacific Northwest coast’s first-ever tsunami.
More than twenty years passed before geologists discovered that it was neither Seaside’s first nor worst tsunami. In fact, massive tsunamis strike the Pacific coast every few hundred years, triggered not by distant temblors but by huge quakes less than one hundred miles off the Northwest coast. Not until the late 1990s would scientists use evidence like tree rings and centuries-old warehouse records from Japan to fix the date, hour, and magnitude of the Pacific Northwest coast’s last megathrust earthquake: 9 p.m., January 26, 1700, magnitude 9.0—one of the largest quakes the world has known. When the next one strikes—this year or hundreds of years from now—the tsunami it generates is likely to be the most devastating natural disaster in the history of the United States.
In The Next Tsunami, Bonnie Henderson shares the stories of scientists like meteorologist Alfred Wegener, who formulated his theory of continental drift while gazing at ice floes calving from Greenland glaciers, and geologist Brian Atwater, who paddled his dented aluminum canoe up coastal streams looking for layers of peat sandwiched among sand and silt. The story begins and ends with Tom Horning, who grew up to become a geologist and return to his family home at the mouth of the river in Seaside—arguably the Northwest community with the most to lose from what scientist Atwater predicts will be an “apocalyptic” disaster. No one in Seaside understands earthquake science—and the politics and complicated psychology of living in a tsunami zone—better than Horning.
Henderson’s compelling story of how scientists came to understand the Cascadia Subduction Zone—a fault line capable of producing earthquakes even larger than the 2011 Tohoku quake in Japan—and how ordinary people cope with that knowledge is essential reading for anyone interested in the charged intersection of science, human nature, and public policy
The failure to plan for disaster recovery results in a process of rebuilding that often presages the next disaster. It also limits the collective maximization of governmental, nonprofit, and private resources, including those resources that are available at the community level. As individuals, groups, communities, and organizations routinely struggle to recover from disasters, they are beset by a duplication of efforts, poor interorganizational coordination, the development and implementation of policies that are not shaped by local needs, and the spread of misinformation. Yet investment in pre-event planning for post-disaster recovery remains low.
Although researchers pointed to this problem at least twenty-five years ago, an unfortunate reality remains: disaster recovery is the least understood aspect of emergency management among both scholars and practitioners. In addition, the body of knowledge that does exist has not been effectively disseminated to those who engage in disaster recovery activities.
Planning for Post-Disaster Recoveryblends what we know about disaster recovery from the research literature with an analysis of existing practice to uncover problems and recommend solutions. It is intended for hazard scholars, practitioners, and others who have not assimilated or acted upon the existing body of knowledge, or who are unexpectedly drawn into the recovery process following a disaster.
When natural disasters and emergencies strike, the short- and long-term effects of these events on first responders—the very people society relies upon in the midst of a catastrophe—are often overlooked. Policing in Natural Disasters provides a comprehensive analysis of the major challenges faced by law enforcement officers during extreme crisis events. Terri Adams and Leigh Anderson examine the dilemmas police departments face as well as the impact of the disasters on the professional and personal lives of the officers. Case studies explore the response and recovery phases of emergencies including Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Santiago, Chile, and the Superstorm Tornado Outbreak in 2011.
Policing in Natural Disasters was inspired by the personal accounts of triumph and tragedy shared by first responders. It provides an understanding of first-responder behaviors during disasters, as well as the preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery policy implications for first responders and emergency managers. As first responders must frequently cope with stress, uncertainty, and threats to their health and safety during high-consequence events, Adams and Anderson provide lessons from first-hand experiences of police officers that can lead to better management in times of crisis.
Rebuilding Community after Katrina chronicles the innovative and ambitious partnership between Cornell University’s City and Regional Planning department and ACORN Housing, an affiliate of what was the nation’s largest low-income community organization. These unlikely allies came together to begin to rebuild devastated neighborhoods in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The editors and contributors to this volume allow participants’ voices to show how this partnership integrated careful, technical analysis with aggressive community outreach and organizing. With essays by activists, organizers, community members, and academics on the ground, Rebuilding Community after Katrina presents insights on the challenges involved in changing the way politicians and analysts imagined the future of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.
What emerges from this complex drama are lessons about community planning, organizational relationships, and team building across multi-cultural lines. The accounts presented in Rebuilding Community after Katrina raise important and sensitive questions about the appropriate roles of outsiders in community-based planning processes.
The United States has one of the largest and costliest flood control systems in the world, even though only a small proportion of its land lies in floodplains. Rivers by Design traces the emergence of the mammoth U.S. flood management system, which is overseen by the federal government but implemented in conjunction with state governments and local contractors and levee districts. Karen M. O’Neill analyzes the social origins of the flood control program, showing how the system initially developed as a response to the demands of farmers and the business elite in outlying territories. The configuration of the current system continues to reflect decisions made in the nineteenth century and early twentieth. It favors economic development at the expense of environmental concerns.
O’Neill focuses on the creation of flood control programs along the lower Mississippi River and the Sacramento River, the first two rivers to receive federal flood control aid. She describes how, in the early to mid-nineteenth century, planters, shippers, and merchants from both regions campaigned for federal assistance with flood control efforts. She explains how the federal government was slowly and reluctantly drawn into water management to the extent that, over time, nearly every river in the United States was reengineered. Her narrative culminates in the passage of the national Flood Control Act of 1936, which empowered the Army Corps of Engineers to build projects for all navigable rivers in conjunction with local authorities, effectively ending nationwide, comprehensive planning for the protection of water resources.
In 1988, forest fires raged in Yellowstone National Park, destroying more than a million acres. As the nation watched the land around Old Faithful burn, a longstanding conflict over fire management reached a fever pitch. Should the U.S. Park and Forest Services suppress fires immediately or allow some to run their natural course? When should firefighters be sent to battle the flames and at what cost?
In Scorched Earth, Barker, an environmental reporter who was on the ground and in the smoke during the 1988 fires, shows us that many of today's arguments over fire and the nature of public land began to take shape soon after the Civil War. As Barker explains, how the government responded to early fires in Yellowstone and to private investors in the region led ultimately to the protection of 600 million acres of public lands in the United States. Barker uses his considerable narrative talents to bring to life a fascinating, but often neglected, piece of American history. Scorched Earth lays a new foundation for examining current fire and environmental policies in America and the world.
Our story begins when the West was yet to be won, with a colorful cast of characters: a civil war general and his soldiers, America's first investment banker, railroad men, naturalists, and fire-fighters-all of whom left their mark on Yellowstone. As the truth behind the creation of America's first national park is revealed, we discover the remarkable role the U.S. Army played in protecting Yellowstone and shaping public lands in the West. And we see the developing efforts of conservation's great figures as they struggled to preserve our heritage. With vivid descriptions of the famous fires that have raged in Yellowstone, the heroes who have tried to protect it, and the strategies that evolved as a result, Barker draws us into the very heart of a debate over our attempts to control nature and people.
This entertaining and timely book challenges the traditional views both of those who arrogantly seek full control of nature and those who naively believe we can leave it unaltered. And it demonstrates how much of our broader environmental history was shaped in the lands of Yellowstone.
This report highlights RAND’s contributions to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Master Plan. Its purpose is to help policymakers in other coastal regions understand the value of a solid technical foundation to support decisionmaking on strategies to reduce flood risk, rebuild or restore coastal environments, and increase the resilience of developed coastal regions.
Sandy was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history after Katrina, but the waters had barely receded from the Jersey coast when massive efforts began to “Restore the Shore.” Why do people build in areas open to repeated natural disasters? And why do they return to these areas in the wake of major devastation? Drawing on a variety of insights from environmental sociology, Superstorm Sandy answers these questions as it looks at both the unique character of the Jersey Shore and the more universal ways that humans relate to their environment.
Diane C. Bates offers a wide-ranging look at the Jersey Shore both before and after Sandy, examining the many factors—such as cultural attachment, tourism revenues, and governmental regulation—that combined to create a highly vulnerable coastal region. She explains why the Shore is so important to New Jerseyans, acting as a key cultural touchstone in a state that lacks a central city or even a sports team to build a shared identity among the state’s residents. She analyzes post-Sandy narratives about the Jersey Shore that trumpeted the dominance of human ingenuity over nature (such as the state’s “Stronger than the Storm” advertising campaign) or proclaimed a therapeutic community (“Jersey Strong”)—narratives rooted in emotion and iconography, waylaying any thought of the near-certainty of future storms. The book also examines local business owners, politicians, real estate developers, and residents who have vested interests in the region, explaining why the Shore was developed intensively prior to Sandy, and why restoration became an imperative in the post-storm period.
Engagingly written and insightful, Superstorm Sandy highlights the elements that compounded the disaster on the Shore, providing a framework for understanding such catastrophes and preventing them in the future.
So far, humanity hasn’t done very well in addressing the ongoing climate catastrophe. Veteran science educator L. S. Gardiner believes we can learn to do better by understanding how we’ve dealt with other types of environmental risks in the past and why we are dragging our feet in addressing this most urgent emergency. Weaving scientific facts and research together with humor and emotion, Gardiner explores human responses to erosion, earthquakes, fires, invasive species, marine degradation, volcanic eruptions, and floods in order to illuminate why we find it so challenging to deal with climate change. Insight emerges from unexpected places—a mermaid exhibit, a Magic 8 Ball, and midcentury cartoons about a future that never came to be.
Instead of focusing on the economics and geopolitics of the debate over climate change, this book brings large-scale disaster to a human scale, emphasizing the role of the individual. We humans do have the capacity to deal with disasters. When we face threatening changes, we don’t just stand there pretending it isn’t so, we do something. But because we’re human, our responses aren’t always the right ones the first time—yet we can learn to do better. This book is essential reading for all who want to know how we can draw on our strengths to survive the climate catastrophe and forge a new relationship with nature.
The wildfires that spread across Southern California in the fall of 2003 were devastating in their scale-twenty-two deaths, thousands of homes destroyed and many more threatened, hundreds of thousands of acres burned. What had gone wrong? And why, after years of discussion of fire policy, are some of America's most spectacular conflagrations arising now, and often not in a remote wilderness but close to large settlements?
That is the opening to a brilliant discussion of the politics of fire by one of the country's most knowledgeable writers on the subject, Stephen J. Pyne. Once a fire fighter himself (for fifteen seasons, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon) and now a professor at Arizona State University, Pyne gives us for the first time a book-length discussion of fire policy, of how we have come to this pass, and where we might go from here.
Tending Fire provides a remarkably broad, sometimes startling context for understanding fire. Pyne traces the "ancient alliance" between fire and humanity, delves into the role of European expansion and the creation of fire-prone public lands, and then explores the effects wrought by changing policies of "letting burn" and suppression. How, the author asks, can we better protect ourselves against the fires we don't want, and better promote those we do?
Pyne calls for important reforms in wildfire management and makes a convincing plea for a more imaginative conception of fire, though always grounded in a vivid sense of fire's reality. "Amid the shouting and roar, a central fact remains," he writes. "Fire isn't listening. It doesn't feel our pain. It doesn't care-really, really doesn't care. It understands a language of wind, drought, woods, grass, brush, and terrain, and it will ignore anything stated otherwise."
Rich in insight, wide-ranging in its subject, and clear-eyed in its proposals, Tending Fire is for anyone fascinated by fire, fire policy, or human culture.
In the early days of 1937, the Ohio River, swollen by heavy winter rains, began rising. And rising. And rising. By the time the waters crested, the Ohio and Mississippi had climbed to record heights. Nearly four hundred people had died, while a million more had run from their homes. The deluge caused more than half a billion dollars of damage at a time when the Great Depression still battered the nation.
Timed to coincide with the flood's seventy-fifth anniversary, The Thousand-Year Flood is the first comprehensive history of one of the most destructive disasters in American history. David Welky first shows how decades of settlement put Ohio valley farms and towns at risk and how politicians and planners repeatedly ignored the dangers. Then he tells the gripping story of the river's inexorable rise: residents fled to refugee camps and higher ground, towns imposed martial law, prisoners rioted, Red Cross nurses endured terrifying conditions, and FDR dispatched thousands of relief workers. In a landscape fraught with dangers—from unmoored gas tanks that became floating bombs to powerful currents of filthy floodwaters that swept away whole towns—people hastily raised sandbag barricades, piled into overloaded rowboats, and marveled at water that stretched as far as the eye could see. In the flood's aftermath, Welky explains, New Deal reformers, utopian dreamers, and hard-pressed locals restructured not only the flood-stricken valleys, but also the nation's relationship with its waterways, changes that continue to affect life along the rivers to this day.
A striking narrative of danger and adventure—and the mix of heroism and generosity, greed and pettiness that always accompany disaster—The Thousand-Year Flood breathes new life into a fascinating yet little-remembered American story.
When the earthquake that struck the Solomon Islands in 2013 produced tsunami waves that damaged the country’s infrastructure, it was one in a recent string of reminders of the devastating effects these ferocious waves can have. From the 2011 tsunami in Japan to the giant waves that killed people near the Indian Ocean in 2004, these destructive events can utterly overwhelm an area not just with water but economic, social, and political devastations. But as Richard Hamblyn demonstrates in this cultural, historical, and scientific engagement with these spectacular natural phenomena, tsunamis remain misunderstood—their triggers, from undersea earthquakes to nuclear weapons testing, have only begun to be studied scientifically in the last fifty years.
Tsunami explores how these treacherous sea-surges happen, what makes them so powerful, and what can be done to safeguard vulnerable coastlines. Hamblyn details their cultural significance in tsunami-prone places such as Japan, Hawaii, and Chile, while also considering their importance in the more seismically stable West, where their appearances are limited to popular culture and blockbuster films. From the legend of Atlantis to the present day, this book casts new light on these deadly waves.
In June 2008, the rivers of eastern Iowa rose above their banks to create floods of epic proportions; their amazing size—flowing in places at a rate nearly double that of the previous record flood—and the rapidity of their rise ruined farmlands and displaced thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses. In Cedar Rapids, the waters inundated more than nine square miles of the downtown area; in Iowa City, where the flood was also the most destructive in history, the University of Iowa’s arts campus was destroyed. By providing a solid base of scientific and technical information presented with unusual clarity and a wealth of supporting illustrations, the contributors to this far-reaching book, many of whom dealt firsthand with the 2008 floods, provide a detailed roadmap of the causes and effects of future devastating floods.
The twenty-five essays fall naturally into four sections. “Rising Rivers, Spreading Waters” begins by comparing the 2008 floods with the midwestern floods of 1993, moves on to trace community responses to the 2008 floods, and ends by illuminating techniques for forecasting floods and determining their size and frequency. “Why Here, Why Now?” searches for possible causes of the 2008 floods and of flooding in general: annual crops and urban landscapes, inflows into and releases from reservoirs, and climate change. “Flood Damages, Flood Costs, Flood Benefits” considers the complex mix of flood costs and effects, emphasizing damages to cities and farmlands as well as potential benefits to natural communities and archaeological sites. “Looking Back, Looking Forward” lays out approaches to managing the floods of the future that are sure to come.
While the book draws most of its examples from one particular region, it explains flooding throughout a much larger region—the midwestern Corn Belt—and thus its sobering yet energizing lessons apply well beyond eastern Iowa. By examining the relationships among rivers, floodplains, weather, and modern society; by stressing matters of science and fact rather than social or policy issues; and by addressing multiple environmental problems and benefits, A Watershed Year informs and educates all those who experienced the 2008 floods and all those concerned with the larger causes of flooding.
Young Men and Fire
Norman Maclean University of Chicago Press, 1992 Library of Congress SD421.32.M9M33 1992 | Dewey Decimal 634.96180978664
On August 5, 1949, a crew of fifteen of the United States Forest Service's elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean puts back together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy.
Young Men and Fire won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.
"A magnificent drama of writing, a tragedy that pays tribute to the dead and offers rescue to the living.... Maclean's search for the truth, which becomes an exploration of his own mortality, is more compelling even than his journey into the heart of the fire. His description of the conflagration terrifies, but it is his battle with words, his effort to turn the story of the 13 men into tragedy that makes this book a classic."—from New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, Best Books of 1992
"A treasure: part detective story, part western, part tragedy, part elegy and wholly eloquent ghost story in which the dead and the living join ranks cheerfully, if sometimes eerily, in a search for truth and the rest it brings."—Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune
"An astonishing book. In compelling language, both homely and elegant, Young Men and Fire miraculously combines a fascinating primer on fires and firefighting, a powerful, breathtakingly real reconstruction of a tragedy, and a meditation on writing, grief and human character.... Maclean's last book will stir your heart and haunt your memory."—Timothy Foote, USA Today
"Beautiful.... A dark American idyll of which the language can be proud."—Robert M. Adams, The New York Review of Books
"Young Men and Fire is redolent of Melville. Just as the reader of Moby Dick comes to comprehend the monstrous entirety of the great white whale, so the reader of Young Men and Fire goes into the heart of the great red fire and comes out thoroughly informed. Don't hesitate to take the plunge."—Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post Book World
"Young Men and Fire is a somber and poetic retelling of a tragic event. It is the pinnacle of smokejumping literature and a classic work of 20th-century nonfiction."—John Holkeboer, The Wall Street Journal
"Maclean is always with the brave young dead. . . . They could not have found a storyteller with a better claim to represent their honor. . . . A great book."—James R. Kincaid, NewYork Times Book Review