Understanding the Psychological and Societal Response of Individuals, Groups, Authorities, and Media to Toxic Hazards

  • Julie G. Cwikel
  • Johan M. Havenaar
  • Evelyn J. Bromet
Part of the The Plenum Series on Stress and Coping book series (SSSO)


Ecological disasters are breaches of public safety and environmental security caused by natural or human processes due to ignorance, accident, mismanagement, or design. Despite the apparent increase in ecological disasters in recent decades, environmental breaches have been recorded as far back as antiquity. The earliest recorded example occurred in Mesopotamia over four thousand years ago when agricultural lands were damaged from inadequate drainage systems, which led to high levels of salt in the soil (Environmental Disasters, 1998). Some ecological disasters, such as nuclear power plant accidents, oil spills, or industrial accidents occur suddenly. Others develop insidiously, as occurred in Minimata, Japan, when mercury from industry waste contaminated fish consumed by local residents. The ecological erosion in the area around the Aral Sea represents another example of “creeping environmental disaster” (see Chapter 9). Yet another example of chronic environmental damage with disastrous proportions was caused by massive burning of forests, in the Borneo and Sumatra slash and burn fires in 1997–1998 (Environmental Disasters, 1998).


Risk Communication Chernobyl Accident Former Soviet Union Environmental Disaster Disaster Situation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie G. Cwikel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Johan M. Havenaar
    • 3
  • Evelyn J. Bromet
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Social Work and Center for Women’s Health Studies and PromotionBen Gurion University of the NegevBeer ShevaIsrael
  2. 2.University Medical Center and Altrecht Institute for Mental Health CareThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science StateUniversity of New York at Stony BrookNew YorkUSA

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