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Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons – we watch in horror before springing into action with aid and support, shocked again and again by the destructive power of the earth. Except these disasters aren't only the earth's doing, they are ours too.
Why did no one consider that a tsunami could disable the nuclear power plants in Fukushima? Why did so many die when Katrina flooded New Orleans? Not so long ago we could only focus on rescuing and sheltering survivors – now we can anticipate many natural disasters and plan for them. In dozens of cities around the world, we're able to identify the specific buildings that will be shaken apart, blown down or reduced to rubble. Yet every year, thanks to politics and inertia, we fail to act.
Traversing continents and history, Robert Muir-Wood blends gripping storytelling with scientific insights to detail our efforts to tame the most extreme forces of nature. At the frontlines, the predictive powers of new technologies mean we can foresee a future where there is an end to the pain and destruction wrought by these devastating cataclysms. As The Cure for Catastrophe makes clear, we have an extraordinary opportunity before us – to make the decisions about what we build, where we live and how warnings are communicated that could save millions of lives.
Robert Muir-Wood is head of research at the world's largest catastrophe modelling company, RMS, and a visiting professor at UCL's Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction. A lead author on climate and catastrophe risk for two IPCC reports, his expertise is sought worldwide. He lives in London.
"In its correction of common myths and challenge to the natural disaster status quo, this is a vital read."
– Geographical Magazine
"[A] wrenching indictment of humanity's shortsightedness [...] Muir-Wood shows greedy developers and corporations playing down risks to cut immediate costs and politicians gaining popularity when they dole out disaster relief while 'money spent on preparedness wins no votes'. Journalists exacerbate the problem by trumpeting the heroism of search-and-rescue teams and then quickly losing interest in the more systemic problems. Muir-Wood, himself a talented storyteller, makes a strong case for rewarding those who take comparatively dull precautions."
– Kim Tingley, New York Times Book Review
"In eloquent prose, Muir-Wood recounts disasters of the past millennium from a variety of perspectives [...] His message for the future is hopeful but demands changes in both policy and culture [...] The Cure for Catastrophe is beautifully written, thoughtful, and rigorous."
"Muir-Wood provides a unique perspective on and comprehensive study of the complex world of managing natural disasters."
"In his meticulous reportage on a number of environmental calamities over the past 300 years, the author offers a cautionary map of the route we took to arrive at this vital geologic moment."
– Publishers Weekly
"This is a very important book. In it, Robert Muir-Wood, convincingly documents his claim that what we are prone to call "natural disasters" are in truth almost always caused by humans."
– Robert M. May, Professor Lord May of Oxford
"Muir-Wood provides a fascinating expert guided tour of the history of catastrophes and how humans have responded to catastrophes."
– Jeff Masters, co-Founder and Director of Meteorology of the Weather Underground
"A fascinating examination of the "forensics of disasters" [...] Readers will find it hard to stop reading this excellent book and will share the author's perhaps futile yearning that elected officials have the courage to pass inconvenient laws and spend the electorate's money to prevent disasters."
– Kirkus, starred review
"With beautifully crafted prose, Robert Muir-Wood reminds us that "natural catastrophe" is an oxymoron – hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes are natural, but by building flimsy structures in dangerous places, we are the cause of catastrophe. With each riveting disaster story and every tale of policy failure, we become better armed with the knowledge of historical errors we need to avoid repeating them."
– Kerry A. Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, MIT
"Astute [...] Readers interested in natural disasters, climate change, and weather will be riveted by this comprehensive account."
– Library Journal
"Muir-Wood provides a lucid explanation of the risks we face from natural disasters [...] The book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn about the increasing exposure we face from natural disasters and what we can do to mitigate it."
– Michael E. Mann, Director, Earth System Science Center at Penn State and author of Dire Predictions
"Disaster expert Robert Muir-Wood's study is science in the round, spanning centuries of catastrophes, key figures [...] forecasting, the intricacies of insurance [...] and detailed, workable recipe for resilience."
"Highly recommended reading for decision-makers, experts, planners, business and importantly for the public at large. Dr. Muir-Wood unveils why disasters are not natural, but man-made."
– Margareta Wahlström, Former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (2009–2015)