Acts of God

Acts of God : The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America

3.7 (100 ratings by Goodreads)
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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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Product details

  • Hardback | 318 pages
  • 159.8 x 239.5 x 25.9mm | 651.92g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195142632
  • 9780195142631

About Theodore Steinberg

Ted Steinberg is one of the leading young environmental historians writing today and the author of Slide Mountain, Or the Folly of Owning Nature. He is also Professor of History and Law at Case Western Reserve University.
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Review quote

An intriguing study that harshly indicts economic and political interests in perpetuating a flawed approach to nature ... well researched and easy to read, sure to reach a broad audience and provoke further debate. It is a welcomed addition to the literature. The Journal of American History Steinberg's work is excellent environmental history, and no doubt the environmental justice movement will welcome it. It is, however, his combination of social, cultural, and political history that will interest readers beyond the narrow confines of one discipline. The Journal of American History Powerfully argued and forcefully written ... This is good old-fashioned, hard-headed scholarship, which confirms that some of the most savage critics of capitalism and its political handmaidens in US academia today are environmental historians. Acts of God is the perfect book, in fact, to curl up with during the perfect storm - provided you don't live in a trailer park. Peter Coates, Times Literary Supplement This compelling book blows away many obscuring clouds of misunderstanding and denial in our national environmental memory. Steinberg forcefully argues that what we have called "natural disasters" have really been acts of social and economic injustice committed by government and private enterprise. He combines superb research with mordant wit and moral bite. Donald Worster, author of Dust Bowl:The Southern Plains In the 1930's (winner of the Bancroft Prize in 1980), The Wealth Of Nature, and the forthcoming A River Running West: The Life Of John Wesley Powell
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Rating details

100 ratings
3.7 out of 5 stars
5 21% (21)
4 37% (37)
3 34% (34)
2 7% (7)
1 1% (1)
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