About this collection

This painting shows Lisbon, Portugal, during the severe earthquake of 1 November 1755 as seen from across the Tagus River. The city in ruins and in flames. The earthquake caused a tsunami, the painting shows the highly disturbed water in the harbor, which sank many ships. The earthquake and its consequences potentially caused the deaths of up to 100,000 people.

The shifting of tectonic plates, for instance, may not be absolutely predictable, but from a geological point of view it is ‘normal.’ The vast majority of these shifts go unnoticed, and no geologist would think of labeling them a catastrophe. In other cases, nature may supply the trigger for a disaster, but whether we call a natural occurrence a catastrophe depends largely on our perception of its impact on humans.

—Christof Mauch. (Natural Disaster, Cultural Responses. Case Studies Toward a Global Environmental History. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2009.)

Extreme natural events happen all the time, such as storms, earthquakes, droughts, or landslides for instance, but they only become disasters if they affect inhabited areas and if they meet populations that are unprepared for them. This new Arcadia collection will present interesting environmental histories from around the world that address disasters in the past and present. Some existing Arcadia articles in this collection are about epidemics, accidents in nuclear power plants, and floods, but this “Disaster Histories” collection is open to new contributions.

The collection is curated by Katrin Kleemann (Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society).

Information on how to contribute.

Showing 1–15 of 24 results
Lahar Meets Locomotive: New Zealand’s Tangiwai Railway Disaster of Christmas Eve 1953
Brett, André Arcadia, Autumn 2018, no. 31
Plant Politics in Karachi
Ginn, Franklin Arcadia, Spring 2018, no. 12
The Ecology of Yellow Fever in Antebellum New Orleans: Sugar, Water Control, and Urban Development
Willoughby, Urmi Engineer Arcadia, Spring 2018, no. 1
The Australia Day Floods, January 1974
Cook, Margaret Arcadia, Summer 2017, no. 15
A Milestone on the Road to Independence? Singapore’s Catastrophic 1954 Floods
Williamson, Fiona Arcadia, Autumn 2016, no. 13
Wildfire Stories: Framing a Complicated Relationship
Wilke, Sabine Arcadia, Summer 2016, no. 7
Carbon Bomb: Indonesia’s Failed Mega Rice Project
Goldstein, Jenny Arcadia, Spring 2016, no. 6
“Citizens of a Watershed”: The Colorado River Compact and the Exigencies of Drought
Foster, Lauren, Roberts, Stacy N. Arcadia, Spring 2016, no. 1
Molluscan Explosion: The Dutch Shipworm Epidemic of the 1730s
Sundberg, Adam Arcadia 2015, no. 14
The Plague of Provence: Early Advances in the Centralization of Crisis Management
Ermus, Cindy Arcadia 2015, no. 9
The Watering of California's Central Valley
Grant, Daniel Arcadia 2015, no. 1
The Thames Barrier: London's Moveable Flood Defense
Hall, Alexander Arcadia 2014, no. 15
The 1969 Flood and Coastal Erosion on Cape Pitsunda
Yakushenko, Olga Arcadia 2014, no. 13
The St. Petersburg Flood of 1824
Barabanova, Kseniya Arcadia 2014, no. 7
The First Cholera Epidemic in St. Petersburg
Barabanova, Kseniya Arcadia 2014, no. 6