How Natural Disasters Harm the Poor More Than the Rich

strandedThe following piece by Columbia Professor John Mutter, author of The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer, and published in Slate is really highly recommended reading for anyone interested in the diverse range of factors impacting on the way natural disasters are managed.


By John Mutter

Adolph Hitler visited Paris just once, in June 1940, in an entourage that included his architect, Albert Speer, and Arno Becker, the official state sculptor. He saw all the usual tourist spots, stopping to look around landmark buildings and monuments. He came just a week or so after the army of the Third Reich had occupied the city, a Paris that was by then all but empty of Parisians. But in the anxious weeks after the fall of the French army, most people hadn’t known whether they should leave or stay. Some had even wanted to believe the Germans would not come to Paris at all.

At the height of the crisis in New Orleans there were three times the number of men in uniform there as there were German troops in Paris

A few people had no doubt what lay ahead. They were the elite of Paris, and they left immediately after their army failed. They took their best possessions, stuffed them into limousines, and sped south with their chauffeurs at the wheel. Why did they leave? The most obvious reason is that they had the most to lose. But elite status also brings, or comes by way of, connections at the highest levels of government and military. So those at the top of society knew what was coming and knew to get out fast. Others were left to do what they thought made the most sense, with only rumor and fear to guide them…READ ON


John Mutter is a professor at Columbia University jointly appointed in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and in the School of International and Public Affairs. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His new book is The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer.

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