The Blessings of Disaster
The Lessons That Catastrophes Teach Us and Why Our Future Depends on It
by Michel Bruneau
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Pub Date 08 Nov 2022 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2022
Rowman & Littlefield, Prometheus
Are we doomed? As individuals, certainly, eventually, inevitably. But as a species? As a civilization? Leading catastrophe engineer Michel Bruneau thinks perhaps not. The Blessings of Disaster draws on knowledge from multiple disciplines to illustrate how our civilization’s future successes and failures in dealing with societal threats—be they pandemics, climate change, overpopulation, monetary collapse, and nuclear holocaust—can be predicted by observing how we currently cope with and react to natural and technological disasters. Maybe most importantly, this entertaining and often counter-intuitive book shows how we can think in better ways about disasters, to strengthen and extend our existence as both individuals and as a species.
When it comes to rare extreme events, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornados, volcanic eruptions, technological accidents, terrorist attacks, pandemics, and even existential threats, it is in our nature to set ourselves up for disasters because the gamble may be worth it. But only maybe.
The Blessing of Disaster is the very real story of the relationship between humans and disasters – and it’s not a simple one. Bringing together his decades-long career spanning the globe as an earthquake and disaster engineer, detailed catastrophe case studies from extreme events like Japan’s Kobe earthquake and category 5 hurricanes in the American South, along with thoughtful and practical solutions, Bruneau provides a thorough examination of the structural challenges that face today’s (and tomorrow’s) world.
How we cope with today’s threats is indicative of what the future holds. Contrary to popular forecasts, it is not all gloom and doom – but some of it definitely is.
Michel Bruneau is a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo, a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineers and of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and – most significantly – Emeritus Director of a National Science Foundation’s national engineering research center focused on preventing disasters from extreme events. He has worked for more than three decades as part of multidisciplinary teams advancing the goal of disaster resilience and has received more than 20 prestigious awards for this innovative work, including a lifetime achievement award.