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The Cure for Catastrophe

Cover of The Cure for Catastrophe

The Cure for Catastrophe

How We Can Stop Manufacturing Natural Disasters
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We can't stop natural disasters but we can stop them being disastrous. One of the world's foremost risk experts tells us how.


Year after year, floods wreck people's homes and livelihoods, earthquakes tear communities apart, and tornadoes uproot whole towns. Natural disasters cause destruction and despair. But does it have to be this way?
In The Cure for Catastrophe, global risk expert Robert Muir-Wood argues that our natural disasters are in fact human ones: We build in the wrong places and in the wrong way, putting brick buildings in earthquake country, timber ones in fire zones, and coastal cities in the paths of hurricanes. We then blindly trust our flood walls and disaster preparations, and when they fail, catastrophes become even more deadly. No society is immune to the twin dangers of complacency and heedless development.
Recognizing how disasters are manufactured gives us the power to act. From the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 to Hurricane Katrina, The Cure for Catastrophe recounts the ingenious ways in which people have fought back against disaster. Muir-Wood shows the power and promise of new predictive technologies, and envisions a future where information and action come together to end the pain and destruction wrought by natural catastrophes. The decisions we make now can save millions of lives in the future.
Buzzing with political plots, newfound technologies, and stories of surprising resilience, The Cure for Catastrophe will revolutionize the way we conceive of catastrophes: though natural disasters are inevitable, the death and destruction are optional. As we brace ourselves for deadlier cataclysms, the cure for catastrophe is in our hands.

We can't stop natural disasters but we can stop them being disastrous. One of the world's foremost risk experts tells us how.


Year after year, floods wreck people's homes and livelihoods, earthquakes tear communities apart, and tornadoes uproot whole towns. Natural disasters cause destruction and despair. But does it have to be this way?
In The Cure for Catastrophe, global risk expert Robert Muir-Wood argues that our natural disasters are in fact human ones: We build in the wrong places and in the wrong way, putting brick buildings in earthquake country, timber ones in fire zones, and coastal cities in the paths of hurricanes. We then blindly trust our flood walls and disaster preparations, and when they fail, catastrophes become even more deadly. No society is immune to the twin dangers of complacency and heedless development.
Recognizing how disasters are manufactured gives us the power to act. From the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 to Hurricane Katrina, The Cure for Catastrophe recounts the ingenious ways in which people have fought back against disaster. Muir-Wood shows the power and promise of new predictive technologies, and envisions a future where information and action come together to end the pain and destruction wrought by natural catastrophes. The decisions we make now can save millions of lives in the future.
Buzzing with political plots, newfound technologies, and stories of surprising resilience, The Cure for Catastrophe will revolutionize the way we conceive of catastrophes: though natural disasters are inevitable, the death and destruction are optional. As we brace ourselves for deadlier cataclysms, the cure for catastrophe is in our hands.

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About the Author-
  • Robert Muir-Wood is chief research officer of Risk Management Solutions and a visiting professor at University College London's Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction. He is the founding editor of the magazine Terra Nova and has published six books. He lives in London, UK.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 13, 2016
    Muir-Wood, chief research officer at Risk Management Solutions, exhaustively chronicles modern history’s natural disasters and humankind’s evolving—if erratic—responses to them. Catastrophes such as the 1755 Lisbon earthquake were once interpreted as “acts of fate,” but centuries of meteorological, engineering, and economic research have ushered in “the modern social understanding of disasters and the practical scientific approach to disaster risk reduction.” Recent decades have seen significant post-disaster advancements in the fields of architecture, insurance, forecasting, and probabilistic “catastrophe modeling.” But Muir-Wood contends that there remain enormous impediments to managing natural disasters: namely, the rise in these events as a result of climate change, the increasingly devastating consequences in a world where “the number of people and buildings in harm’s way keeps rising,” and the prevalence of human denial and bureaucratic negligence. In his meticulous reportage on a number of environmental calamities over the past 300 years, the author offers a cautionary map of the route we took to arrive at this vital geologic moment. The path forward should entail “both disaster policy and disaster culture,” Muir-Wood argues: a governing body and a motivated global community that will collaboratively and inventively undertake the management of inevitable catastrophes. Agent: Alex Christofi, Conville & Walsh.

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The Cure for Catastrophe
The Cure for Catastrophe
How We Can Stop Manufacturing Natural Disasters
Robert Muir-Wood
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