Disasters Evermore? Reducing our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters

Publication Date: 
September 2008
Social Research 75:3 Fall, 2008, 1-20.


Natural disasters, unintended disasters (largely industrial and technological), and deliberate disasters have all increased in number and intensity in the United States in the last quarter century2(see Figure 32.1) In the United States we may prevent some and mitigate some, but we can’t escape them. At present, we focus on protecting the targets and mitigating the consequences, and we should do our best at that. But our organizations are simply not up to the challenge from the increasing number of disasters. What we can more profitably do is reduce the size of the targets, that is, reduce the concentrations of energy found in hazardous materials, the concentration of power in vital organizations, and the concentrations of humans in risky locations. Smaller, dispersed targets of nature’s wrath, industrial accidents, or terrorist’s aim will kill fewer and cause less economic and social disruption.

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