Capacity to Predict Disasters Outstrips Our Desire to Avoid Them

Disaster prediction is a "growth industry", writes Nathaniel Rich, and one that has made incredible strides over the past several years. But will all this information lead us to make better decisions about where we choose to live?
November 25, 2013, 7am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"We are now able to prophesy impending cataclysms with a specificity that would have been inconceivable just several years ago," explains Rich. "Several factors have contributed to this progress: a growing public anxiety about disasters; advances in disciplines as disparate as computer science, fluid mechanics, and neuroscience; and an infusion of funding from governments, universities, and especially corporations, which have figured out that disaster planning saves money in the long run." 

"Disaster predictions will become more accurate, but what difference will it make? Will it save lives, or even change behavior?"

"Many millions of people, of course, don’t have a choice—they cannot afford to move. But those who can leave—especially those who can leave—tend to stay. To rebuild is heroic; to move is a retreat, an act of cowardice. "

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Published on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 in The New Yorker
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