Natural disasters are perennial and significant events in global history. They have affected every society in ever corner of the globe. They do not, however, develop out of unpredictable, chance collisions between unlucky people and unforgiving environments. “Natural” disasters are as much the product of human vulnerabilities as they are environmental hazards.
The degree of vulnerability to disaster is highly dependent on a variety of social and cultural conditions. If disasters are not simply “acts of God,” what are some of the methods we can use to explore them? How can disasters better inform us about the critical issues of diversity and social justice? History offers a useful set of tools to untangle the social, cultural, and environmental forces that create catastrophe.
Disaster scholars have increasingly demonstrated that there is no such thing as a natural disaster. This atlas of student work demonstrates why. The Atlas of Unnatural Disaster project collects undergraduate student work from the Critical Issues in Human Inquiry course: HIS 179: A History of Unnatural Disasters, at Creighton University. Their explores how disasters intersect with social inequalities, challenges to human dignity, and questions of responsibility.