There is no such thing as a natural disaster

Rigby, K (2011) There is no such thing as a natural disaster. In: Climate Change - Cultural Change: Religious Responses and Responsibilities, 29 October 2011, Centre for Theology and Ministry, Parkville, Australia.

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When, in January 2011, two thirds of Queensland and significant areas of New South Wales and Victoria (in other words, much of eastern Australia) disappeared under flood waters, a catastrophe soon followed in February by the widespread havoc wrought by a huge force 5cyclone that ploughed into a 700-­‐kilometre stretch of the Queensland coast, both of these events were publicly framed as 'natural disasters'. This is hardly surprising. While some American evangelicals and Islamic fundamentalists might seek to discern divine agency in such catastrophes (albeit with varying diagnoses of the human ills that could have provoked such heavenly wrath), self-­respecting moderns are rightly reticent about attributing moral significance to the periodically unruly behaviour of earth and sky. For all that, though, the designation of the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi as 'natural disasters' was profoundly misleading, given that the intensity of both the precipitation event and subsequent cyclonic winds was directly related to the unprecedented warmth of the La Nina-affected oceans that are already heating up as a consequence of industrial modernity's rapidly rising CO2 emissions. In this paper, I propose to sketch the historical background to the emergence of the modern concept of natural disaster, which replaced earlier theocentric notions of divine intervention, before proceeding to consider how climate change is prompting a reconsideration of biblical witness to the complex entanglement of human, nonhuman and divine agencies in the aetiology of environmental catastrophe.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2016 15:19
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:42
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