Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Disasters and Democracy: The Politics of Extreme Natural Events

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: Disasters and Democracy: The Politics of Extreme Natural Events

Article excerpt

Review: Disasters and Democracy: The Politics of Extreme Natural Events Rutherford H. Platt (Ed.) Reviewed by Graham E.L. Holton La Trobe University, Australia Rutherford H. Platt (Ed.). Disasters and Democracy: The Politics of Extreme Natural Events. Washington DC: Island Press, 1999. 320 pp. ISBN 1-55963- 696-3.

Natural disasters in the United States cost $20 billion a year in direct costs to government, the insurance industry, and to victims, and the costs continue to burgeon. Non-economic losses are not only death and the tragedy of grief, but also the loss of family pets and treasured irreplaceable items. These papers discuss the history and impact of government legislation of compensating communities for tragedies related to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and brush fires. Before 1950, disaster assistance was viewed as the moral responsibility of the community, charities, and church groups, according to a 1916 court decision defining "Acts of God." The Federal Disaster Relief Act of 1950 marked the beginning of a half- century of federal laws, programs, and policies intended to reduce the economic burden on stricken communities.

Chapter 1 traces the evolution of federal initiatives and relief measures such as grants, subsidized loans, federal insurance policies, and technical assistance. The chapter ends with a discussion of when compassion leads to "codependency" whereby the victims and government become locked into a repetitive cycle of loss and compensation. …

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