NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 8, 2005

While storms such as Hurricane Katrina are sometimes called an act of God or a natural disaster, the devastation they leave behind is not. But the actions that humans take contribute to the damage caused by extreme weather, say observers. For example:

  • People continue to live in mobile homes, although tornadoes turn them into matchsticks and one-third of all deaths from tornadoes occur among people living in mobile homes.
  • Mobile-home communities and poor neighborhoods are also much more likely to be situated in flood plains throughout the South and Midwest.
  • In Louisiana, coastal wetlands provide some shelter from surging seawater, but more than one million acres of coastal wetlands have been lost since 1930 due to development and construction of levees and canals.
  • For every square mile of wetland lost, storm surges rise by one foot.

Moreover, the levees in New Orleans were built to keep the city from being flooded by the Mississippi, but instead caused it to fall below sea level. Now the Gulf of Mexico has moved into the city, says the Journal.

By continuing to blame weather extremes on random events, officials and city planners are ignoring their contributions to the disasters that have pummeled the planet and promise to become only worse, says the Journal.

Source: Sharon Begley, "Man-Made Mistakes Increase Devastation Of 'Natural' Disasters," Wall Street Journal, September 2, 2005.

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