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2030Technology That Will Change the World$
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Rutger van Santen, Djan Khoe, and Bram Vermeer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195377170

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195377170.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 January 2022

Disaster Scenarios

Disaster Scenarios

5.4 (p.232) Disaster Scenarios

Rutger van Santen

Djan Khoe

Bram Vermeer

Oxford University Press

A hurricane striking the Chinese coast is ten times as lethal as one hitting the United States. The number of U.S. victims is limited because of better precautions, warning systems, and evacuation methods. More effective observation and communication can save lives. A century ago, hurricanes killed around 7,000 Americans every year, whereas nowadays there are only very few hurricanes of the lethality of Katrina. That progress has yet to reach every corner of Earth, says Guus Berkhout regretfully. This Dutch geophysicist has immersed himself in the mechanisms of disasters and disaster prevention since the beginning of his scientific career—first as professor of seismic imaging and later as professor of innovation at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. We talked to him at the university campus that lies 3 meters below sea level. At his laboratory, Berkhout analyzes the early warning systems and contingency plans that will be needed to protect both his lab and his compatriots. “We can’t stop earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, or tidal waves from happening,” he stresses. “And we may never be able to predict hurricanes or earthquakes with sufficient accuracy. Nor can we hope to prevent people from living in dangerous places. They are simply too attractive.” Human beings indeed seem addicted to living on the edge of catastrophe. The World Bank has calculated that a fifth of all countries are under permanent threat of natural disaster, with some 3.4 billion people—roughly half the world’s population—at heightened risk of being killed by one. Yet unsafe regions are often exceptionally popular places to live and work, one reason being that floodplains and the slopes of volcanoes are highly fertile. The climate is milder along the coast, the soil better, and transport more efficient than farther inland. Even the likelihood of earthquakes isn’t enough to persuade people to live elsewhere, as witnessed by some of the most densely populated areas of California and Japan. Current migration trends—moving to where the action is—suggest that the proportion of people living in unsafe areas will only increase.

Keywords:   World Bank, climate change, communication technology, computer games, disasters, innovation, irrationality, nuclear weapons, social media, tsunamis

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