UN: ‘No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster’

UN: ‘No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster’

There is no such thing as a natural disaster only the failure of humans to prepare for events beyond their control, a United Nations office claims.

In a display of almost Orwellian doublespeak, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) further cautions “a hazard can only become a disaster once it impacts on society or community. A hazard is natural, disasters are not.”

The words of warning are contained in an online assessment published by the organization, stating at the outset “We often hear about ‘natural disasters’ in the news or from NGOs and international organisations (even some less-well informed UN agencies!). The truth is, there is no such thing as a natural disaster.”

Instead of nature, society is to blame, Mami Mizutori, the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UNDRR, says.

The report goes on to differentiate between nature and the multiple human agencies tasked with helping society deal with a “natural hazard”:

A natural hazard, such as a hurricane, earthquake, or flood, only becomes a disaster when it impacts a community that is not adequately protected, and whose population is vulnerable as a result of poverty, exclusion or socially-disadvantage.

There are also disasters that result from natural hazards, like wildfires or desertification, that have a devastating effect on natural resources, laying waste to ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Some of these originate from man-made hazards, like chemical spills or nuclear leaks. This destruction can have serious effects on the communities that co-exist and rely on these resources, causing economic and cultural losses, and ruining lives and livelihoods.

Still, those aren’t natural disasters.

Ultimately disasters are a societal failure, the UNDRR concludes, before adding words of its own wisdom, cautioning “Next time you hear that phrase – ‘natural disaster’ – step up to the mark and correct the speaker: ‘There is no such thing as a natural disaster.’”