Study proposes wholesale change in thinking about natural hazards mitigation


  • Randy Showstack


The “lollapaloozas,” the major natural catastrophes, are getting bigger and bigger, and it is time to confront this growing problem by dramatically changing the way that society approaches natural hazard mitigation, conducts itself in relation to the natural environment, and accepts responsibility for activities that could lead to or increase disasters, according to Dennis Mileti, principal investigator of a new study on natural hazards, and director of the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Since 1989, the United States has been struck by seven of the nation's 10 most costly natural disasters, including the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California that caused $25 billion in damages. Also since 1989, the financial cost of natural hazards in the United States—which includes floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires, as well as landslides, heat, and fog—has frequently averaged $1 billion per week, a price that some experts say will continue rising. Internationally, the Kobe, Japan, earthquake cost more than $100 billion and is the most financially costly disaster in world history None of these figures include indirect losses related to natural disasters, such as lost economic productivity