How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe's Path, from the Caribbean to Siberia

How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe's Path, from the Caribbean to Siberia

by Stan Cox, Paul Cox


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We’ve always lived on a dangerous planet, but its disasters aren’t what they used to be. How the World Breaks gives us a breathtaking new view of crisis and recovery on the unstable landscapes of the Earth’s hazard zones. Father and son authors Stan and Paul Cox take us to the explosive fire fronts of overheated Australia, the future lost city of Miami, the fights over whether and how to fortify New York City in the wake of Sandy, the Indonesian mud volcano triggered by natural gas drilling, and other communities that are reimagining their lives after quakes, superstorms, tornadoes, and landslides.

In the very decade when we should be rushing to heal the atmosphere and address the enormous inequalities of risk, a strange idea has taken hold of global disaster policy: resilience. Its proponents say that threatened communities must simply learn the art of resilience, adapt to risk, and thereby survive. This doctrine obscures the human hand in creating disasters and requires the planet’s most beleaguered people to absorb the rush of floodwaters and the crush of landslides, freeing the world economy to go on undisturbed. The Coxes’ great contribution is to pull the disaster debate out of the realm of theory and into the muck and ash of the world’s broken places. There we learn that change is more than mere adaptation and life is more than mere survival. Ultimately, How the World Breaks reveals why—unless we address the social, ecological, and economic roots of disaster—millions more people every year will find themselves spiraling into misery. It is essential reading for our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620970126
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 07/12/2016
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Stan Cox is research coordinator at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, where he lives. His books include Losing Our Cool and Any Way You Slice It (both published by The New Press). Paul Cox is an anthropologist and a writer on development and disaster. He is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, and regularly conducts research in Central Africa.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Fire Regimes: Australia and Siberia 15

2 Leave It Up to Batman: The Philippines 38

3 Neighbors to the Sky: New York City 64

4 Every Silver Lining… 88

5 Gray Goo: East Java, Indonesia 122

6 How to Booby-Trap a Planet 143

7 Foreshock, Shock, Aftershock: L'Aquila, Italy 160

8 Atlantis of the Americas: Miami, Florida 175

9 Engineer, Defend, Insure, Absorb, Leave 198

10 The Absorbers: Mumbai, India, and Kampala, Uganda 224

11 Vulnerability Seeps in Everywhere 238

12 Keeping the Lights On: Montserrat, West Indies 257

13 "We Do Things Big Here": Greensburg, Kansas, and Joplin, Missouri 278

14 When Mountains Fall: Uttarakhand State, India 298

Epilogue: Rainbow of Chaos 317

Notes 325

Index 387

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