From the Editor

Article excerpt

As a historian, I am not comfortable with predictions for the future. You see, the past overflows with variety, and there are too many variables now to imagine certainties to come. But I'm willing to stick my neck out about disasters: We have not seen the end of them.

Can we prevent disasters? With all of our engineering and technological advances, can we not apply a preventive fix on identified causes, or at least, can we mitigate the inevitable?

History is instructive, providing case examples. With public health issues, vaccines and sanitation avert some disasters. But of course new diseases rear their ugly heads, and other preventable health hazards--like too much fast food--always happen, even when we know better. In California, blessed in so many ways, dramatic environmental hazards are endemic. Maybe not hurricanes; and damage-causing tsunamis hit us only about every eighteen years; but the state frequently sustains wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes, and even tornadoes. California endures, but there are enormous costs in property damage, and much worse, in human life. Avoidance is impossible; ameliorative measures do some good, and mitigation activities may prevent emergencies or lessen damage. …