Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America / Edition 2

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As the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain began to pour into New Orleans, people began asking the big question—could any of this have been avoided? How much of the damage from Hurricane Katrina was bad luck, and how much was poor city planning?

Steinberg's Acts of God is a provocative history of natural disasters in the United States. This revised edition features a new chapter analyzing the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, a disaster Steinberg warned could happen when the book first was published. Focusing on America's worst natural disasters, Steinberg argues that it is wrong to see these tragedies as random outbursts of nature's violence or expressions of divine judgment. He reveals how the decisions of business leaders and government officials 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 explains, has helped to hide the fact that some Americans are simply better able to protect themselves from the violence of nature than others.

In the face of revelations about how the federal government mishandled the Katrina calamity, this book is a must-read before further wind and water sweep away more lives. Acts of God is a call to action that needs desperately to be heard.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A sobering lesson in humanity's vulnerability to extreme climatic events, especially the impoverished farmer and the urban poor."—The Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Steinberg has an unabashedly political agenda in this work, but that does not interfere with him making a powerful point concerning the economics of disaster preparation and recovery...This is an insightful work that raises serious questions about who really directs our philosophy of disaster preparedness."—Booklist

"Powerfully argued and forcefully written.... Good old-fashioned, hard-headed scholarship, which confirms that some of the most savage critics of capitalism in US academia today are environmental historians."—The Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195309683
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/29/2006
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 741,143
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ted Steinberg teaches history at Case Western Reserve University and is the author of Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History and American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn. His essays have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Natural History, and The New York Times.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : hometown blues
I Return of the suppressed
1 Last call for judgement day 3
2 Disaster as archetype 25
3 Do-it-yourself deathscape 47
Interlude Body counting 69
II Federalizing risk
4 Building for apocalypse 79
5 Uncle Sam - floodplain recidivist 97
Interlude The perils of private property 117
III Containing calamity
6 The neurotic life of weather control 127
7 Forecasting at the fair weather service 149
8 Who pays? 173
9 The drowning of America 197
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2011

    This is a must read

    This book was assigned reading for an emergency management class I took in college a couple years ago, and I will keep it on my bookshelf for good. Acts of God gives readers a completely different perspective on natural disasters in the United States than we are conditioned to accept growing up. Steinberg takes a historical approach to natural disasters, and argues the point that even though many people accept extreme natural events as unpredictable and unforseeable "acts of God", in reality we have a detailed record of natural disasters that tells us exactly what we can expect. We know when and where tornados occur, we know when and where hurricanes happen, we know where and to some extent when we can expect earthquakes, and so on. Yet policy makers in our country continue to turn a blind eye on what could be done to prevent casualties and costly damage as the result of these events, as evidenced by the fact that government spending on disaster relief aid is three times as much as what is spent to mitigate disasters in the first place. If you're like me, this book will frustrate you and maybe make you a little angry, and then you will never watch a news broadcast about a natural disaster and feel the same as before you read it. Happy reading.

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