Why Are We Not Prepared For Extreme Natural Events?


  • Universitaet Kassel, Steel and Composite Structures Department, Germany


In 2005, hurricane Katrina severely damaged New Orleans, which has not completely recovered yet. In 2010, an earthquake destroyed Port Au Prince leaving Haiti in shambles until this date. In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed thousands even as far as Africa, only to be followed in 2011 by the Tohoku tsunami that triggered one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. Each and every one of these extreme natural events was foreseen or foreseeable, given our knowledge about their nature. That knowledge also tells us that this will happen again and again and our losses will rise. What is keeping us from being prepared?

Before the advent of natural sciences, people believed that these events are an act of god to punish the wicked and humble mankind. In many so-called “developing” regions, this belief still exists and may be a reason for fatalism and lack of preparedness. Not so in the US and Japan, which also have been hit hard and have trouble recovering.

Modern societies over-emphasize short-term economic gains, which is certainly one major reason behind this un-preparedness. But economic principles also have the potential to change this in the future.


Disaster, Tsunami, Losses, Short Term Gains.

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