A Heuristic Approach to Future Disasters and Crises: New, Old, and In-Between Types

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Abstract

Disasters and crises have been part of the human experience since people started living in groups. Through the centuries, however, new hazards and risks have emerged that have added to the possibilities of new disasters and crises arising from them. Only a very small fraction of risks and hazards actually lead to a disaster or crisis, but they are usually a necessary condition for such surfacing. New types have emerged while older ones have not disappeared. The development of synthetic chemicals in the 19th century and nuclear power in the 20th century created the risk of toxic chemical disasters and crises from radioactive fallouts. Ancient disasters such as floods and earthquakes remain with us today. This chapter raises the question of whether we are at another important historical juncture with the emergence of a new distinctive class of disasters and crises not seen before.