Acts of God (2nd ed.)

The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America

by Ted Steinberg

With the exception of the 9/11 disaster, the top ten most costly catastrophes in U.S. history have all been natural disasters--five of them hurricanes--and all have occurred since 1989. Why this tremendous plague on our homes?In Acts of God, environmental historian Ted Steinberg explains that much of the death and destruction has been well within the realm of human control. Steinberg exposes the fallacy of seeing such calamities as simply random events. Beginning with the 1886 Charleston and 1906 San Francisco earthquakes, and continuing to the present, Steinberg explores the unnatural history of natural calamity, the decisions of business leaders and government officials that have paved the way for the greater losses of life and property, especially among those least able to withstand such blows--America's poor, elderly, and minorities. Seeing nature or God as the primary culprit, Steinberg argues, has helped to hide the fact that some Americans are better protected from the violence of nature than their counterparts lower down the socioeconomic ladder. Sure to provoke discussion, Acts of God is a call to action that must be heard.
  • Oxford University Press; October 2000
  • ISBN: 9780198032533
  • Edition: 2
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Acts of God
  • Author: Ted Steinberg
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"Leaves us in no doubt as to the powerful role that environmental instability has played in recent history.... A sobering lesson in humanity's vulnerability to extreme climatic events, especially the impoverished farmer and the urban poor."--The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Steinberg has an unabashedly political agenda in this work, but that does not interfere with him making a powerful point concerning the economics of disaster preparation and recovery...This is an insightful work that raises serious questions about who really directs our philosophy of disaster preparedness."--Booklist
"This compelling book blows away many obscuring clouds of misunderstanding and denial in our national environmental memory. Steinberg forcefully argues that what we have called "natural disasters" have really been acts of social and economic injustice committed by government and private enterprise. He combines superb research with mordant wit and moral bite."--Donald Worster, author of Dust Bowl:The Southern Plains In the 1930's (winner of the Bancroft Prize in 1980), The Wealth Of Nature, and the forthcoming A River Running West: The Life Of John Wesley Powell.
"Powerfully argued and forcefully written.... Good old-fashioned, hard-headed scholarship, which confirms that some of the most savage critics of capitalism in US academia today are environmental historians.... Acts of God is the perfect book, in fact, to curl up with during the perfect storm."--Times Literary Supplement

About The Author

Ted Steinberg is one of the leading young environmental historians writing today and the author of Slide Mountain, Or the Folly of Owning Nature. He is also Professor of History and Law at Case Western Reserve University.