Elements of Destruction - Can Man Prevail?

Natural disasters are happening more often and are having a greater impact on the world in terms of both their human and economic costs.  While the number of lives lost from natural disasters has declined in the past 20 years, the number of people affected has risen.  According to the UN's Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, 75 percent of the world's population live in areas that have been affected at least once by either an earthquake, a tropical cyclone, flooding or drought, between 1980 and 2000.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which publishes a World Disasters Report annually, calculates that from 1994 to 1998, reported disasters averaged 428 per year.  From 1999 to 2003, this figure shot up by two-thirds to an average of 707 natural disasters each year.  The biggest rise occurred in developing countries, which suffered an increase of 142 percent.

The factors most often blamed for the increase in natural disasters are:

  •  environmental degradation - exploiting our natural resources by doing things such as cutting timber on hillsides which magnifies the effects of landslides or draining wetlands which increases the effects of flooding

  •  climate change -  brought on by greenhouse-gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and global warming

  •  population growth (in particular, unplanned urban growth)

  • Aging infrastructures

Our project describes the major types of natural disasters; their cause and the effect they have on people and property.  We have also attempted to identify ways individuals and communities can better prepare for various disasters thus reducing loss of lives and property.

In the aftermath of recent disasters such as Katrina and the tsunami in Asia, we wonder how countries will be able to afford the billions of dollars necessary to recover and to prevent further destruction in the future. Can man prevail?