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Earthquakes, droughts, floods, and storms are natural hazards, but
unnatural disasters are the deaths and damages that result from human
acts of omission and commission. Every disaster is unique, but each
exposes actions--by individuals and governments at different
levels--that, had they been different, would have resulted in fewer
deaths and less damage. Prevention is possible, and this book examines
what it takes to do this cost-effectively.
Natural Hazards, UnNatural Disasters looks at disasters
primarily through an economic lens. Economists emphasize self-interest
to explain how people choose the amount of prevention, insurance, and
coping. But lenses can distort as well as sharpen images, so the book
also draws from other disciplines: psychology to examine how people may
misperceive risks, political science to understand voting patterns, and
nutrition science to see how stunting in children after a disaster
impairs cognitive abilities and productivity as adults much later. It
asks not only the tough questions, but some unexpected ones as well:
Should all disasters be prevented? Do disasters increase or decrease
conflict? Does foreign aid help or hinder prevention? The answers are
not obvious. Peering into the future, it finds that growing cities and
a changing climate will shape the disaster prevention landscape. While
it is cautious about the future, it is not alarmist.
This book will be of interest to government officials, urban
planners, relief agencies, NGOs, donors, and other development
practitioners. Visit www.worldbank.org/preventingdisasters for more
Praise for the book:
"A remarkable combination of case studies, data on many scales,
and application of economic principles... [this report] provides a deep
understanding of the relative roles of the market, government
intervention, and social institutions in determining and improving both
the prevention and the response to hazardous occurrences."
--Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel Prize in Economics, 1972
"I strongly recommend this book to non-economists as well as
economists, and to government officials who must cope with floods, oil
spills, earthquakes, and other disasters."
--Gary S. Becker, Nobel Prize in Economics, 1992
"Fascinating and right on target... You are doing very
--Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize in Economics, 2009
"This report is a gem...a model to be studied and emulated...a
team effort, contradicting the popular notion that a camel is a horse
described by a committee. I don't remember reading any other 248
pages on a deadly serious subject that were so informative and so
--Thomas C. Schelling, Nobel Prize in Economics, 2005
"An excellent piece of work with really practical lessons that
will influence the way disasters are handled --and indeed prevented...
[it] could make a gigantic difference to the lives of vulnerable
people. I welcome it warmly."
--Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize in Economics, 1998
"Careful, thoughtful, studious... responses will be more
effective, before and after the event, and damage will be less if
governments, relief organizations, and others learn from this
--Robert M. Solow, Nobel Prize in Economics, 1987
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