Saturday, November 03, 2012

Disasters aren’t “natural.” As disaster historians, we don’t even use the term. What makes something a disaster, as opposed to just a hazard, is the way it interacts with society, with the built environment. Much of Zone A, which was evacuated in Manhattan, is on landfill. Of course that’s going to be most likely to be flooded. People in the evacuation zone were about twice as likely to live in public housing as the rest of the city. That’s not natural; that’s about how we organize society.

Disasters are not blind. We have this rhetoric of disasters affecting rich and poor equally and that’s just not true. People who evacuated from Battery Park took a cab – maybe to summer homes, maybe to hotels. People who took crowded city buses from public housing are now sleeping on the floor of a high school gym. And we see the way class intersects with all these other groups: After Katrina, we saw rising rates of sexual violence. And the elderly poor and the disabled poor are particularly at risk. The people who die are the people who die alone.

Further words from me and linkage on how to help those who were in Hurricane Sandy's path can be found at NOLAFemmes.

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