How natural are natural disasters?

Does drought cause famine? The question isn’t as simple as it might seem.

There is a tendency in Western governments, much of the international aid community, and mainstream media to view the social consequences of natural phenomena as inevitable. Unlike war, suffering and death in the wake of floods, earthquakes, and droughts is seen as tragic yet unavoidable. Capricious mother nature will have her way. Yet a cursory glance at mortality rates for earthquakes in the US versus China, or malnutrition rates for droughts in Australia versus Africa belie this assumption. In an article for the Washington Post, William Moseley asks Why They’re Starving in the Horn of Africa and critiques dominant approaches to famine prevention and relief. Deep structures at the heart of agriculture make or break the capacity of a community or region to weather nature’s unpredictable mood swings.

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