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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


March-April 2013

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Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative

Escalating disaster losses coupled with the increasing frequency of billion-dollar disaster events, such as the recent Hurricane Sandy, highlight some of the challenges to hazards and disaster policy in the United States. American society is also facing challenges to its economic, sociocultural, and environmental systems: The national jobless rate is near historic high values, more than one in six Americans now live in poverty, population migration to the coastal communities continues, and environmental degradation due to development, farming practices, or industrial processes and accidents continues to degrade natural defenses against floods, storm surge, and wildfires. Many of these changes are transformative and long lasting and, coupled with the nation's inability to act decisively to counteract climate change, portend a future where we are more vulnerable to hazards at multiple scales. Extreme natural events (either unprecedented magnitudes or intensities of natural hazards or the unprecedented consequences of more routine hazards) may become normal occurrences under changing climatic conditions or changes in economic circumstances and social conditions.

Susan L. Cutter is a Carolina Distinguished Professor of Geography and the director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute in the Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina.

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