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In the past three decades, the number of natural disasters has risen and the world has become increasingly aware of the relationship between the declining quality of the earths environment and the frequency and severity of earthly catastrophes. On June 27-28, 1990, the World Bank sponsored a colloquium in Washington, D.C., to promote the exchange of experiences of and ideas about the environment and disaster management.
The papers in this book represent the concerns expressed at that colloquium. They explore the two-way relationship between environmental degradation and vulnerability to disaster - and their combined effects on both natural and man-made habitats.
One disaster often leads to another: high windstorms are followed by floods and landslides, floods by drought, and drought by pest epidemics. Such chains of disaster result partly from the tendency of natural disasters to debilitate the environment; they are aided in this by some human activities. The same cycle results whether the cause of degradation is natural or springs from human effort. But environmental degradation intensifies the effects of disaster.
Both disasters and environmental degradation threaten human and natural habitats, but disasters are often seen as motors of natural change quite beyond human control. This is not true. Prevention does not mean halting such trigger events as earthquakes and cyclones but rather minimizing their impact on our environment. Many of the papers in this volume suggest how to improve our management of disasters, the environment, and the important relationship between them.
Cover Design: Joyce Petruzzelli
Photo Credits: James Mason, Black Star (Volcano), Curt Carnemark (Balinese Field)