One year after Hurricane Katrina, geographer Neil Smith wrote “there’s no such thing as a natural disaster”, arguing that disasters, regardless of their environmental origins and impact, are socially produced phenomena. Such causes, from fundamentally changing the topography of the region to the organized abandonment of low income neighborhoods, became evidently clear in the days following the storm.
To say something is natural, an ‘act of nature’, or the ‘will of God’, erases this social history, and in so doing removes culpability from those who cause disasters while shifting the risk and responsibility of the aftermath onto communities who are impacted the most. What lessons do we learn when we decouple ‘natural’ from ‘disaster’? How does this project, both geographic and historical, help us recognize patterns in the ways that disasters form over time?
Using examples from Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, this Olio will unpack several antagonistic social relationships: capital vs. climate, the State vs. citizens, and capital vs. citizens, that not only create the conditions for ‘natural’ disasters, but extend far beyond the single event. We will discuss how disasters, while decades in the making, do not have to be inevitable.
Teacher: Lauren Hudson
Lauren Hudson is a peer educator with the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York, an organization that she and other collective members of SolidarityNYC, a solidarity economy advocacy collective, co-founded. In addition to her organizing work, she is a recent PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center and an adjunct in Africana Studies at CUNY’s John Jay College.
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June 26, 20187:30 p.m.
June 26, 2018
Think Olio | There's No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster
Using examples from Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, this Olio will unpack several antagonistic social relationships that not only create the conditions for ‘natural’ disasters, but extend far beyond the single event.