Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America

Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America

Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America

Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America


As the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain began to pour into New Orleans, people began asking the big question--could any of this have been avoided? How much of the damage from Hurricane Katrina was bad luck, and how much was poor city planning?

Steinberg's Acts of God is a provocative history of natural disasters in the United States. This revised edition features a new chapter analyzing the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, a disaster Steinberg warned could happen when the book first was published. Focusing on America's worst natural disasters, Steinberg argues that it is wrong to see these tragedies as random outbursts of nature's violence or expressions of divine judgment. He reveals how the decisions of business leaders and government officials have paved the way for the greater losses of life and property, especially among those least able to withstand such blows--America's poor, elderly, and minorities. Seeing nature or God as the primary culprit, Steinberg explains, has helped to hide the fact that some Americans are simply better able to protect themselves from the violence of nature than others.

In the face of revelations about how the federal government mishandled the Katrina calamity, this book is a must-read before further wind and water sweep away more lives. Acts of God is a call to action that needs desperately to be heard.


In Hannibal, Missouri—Hometown, U.S.A.—Mark Twain means big business. Nineteen ninety-six brought over 600,000 camera-toting tourists to the village that defines the sentimentalized picture of nineteenthcentury life and culture envisioned by so many Americans. They come to visit the famed authors boyhood home, lunch at the Mark Twain Dinette, wander Main Street, pose before the most famous picket fence in history, and, above all, indulge themselves in a fantasy of whitewashed Americana. Hannibal can seem like a huge Norman Rockwell painting come to life.

But venture beyond the kitsch of this commodifled hometown and you will find a darker, more problematic picture. The problems begin with the Mississippi River, the 2,000-mile-long father of waters that Twain navigated as a riverboat captain and immortalized in prose. Floods have long been a part of life in Hannibal. The first major flood on record occurred back in 1851, when Twain was still a town resident. In the recent past, however, the problem of flooding has worsened considerably. Of . . .

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