On 2004). Turner (1976, as cited in Alexander, 1999,

On the other hand, it is important to recognise that
there is a weakness to the argument formed by the social scientists,
geographers and disaster scholars in that there is no such thing as a natural
disaster.  In the second half of this discussion
essay I am going to consider nature and humanity as intertwined concepts. I
will explore why it could be argued that there is such thing as a natural
disaster.  I will achieve this by using the
Foot and Mouth disease case which visited the UK in 2001 and again the Haiti
earthquake of 2010 to demonstrate this point of view.

The Foot and Mouth disease is an infectious and often
fatal disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals.  In 2001, over a period of seven months the
Foot and Mouth contaminated over 2030 premises. The contamination led to
slaughter of six million animals and it was particularly hard hitting for the
rural communities (Law and Singleton, 2004). Animals which are affected by Foot
and Mouth are cloven-hoofed animals such like, sheep, goats and deer. Cumbria
was the hardest hit compared to any other place in the United Kingdom, the
outbreak lasted for months on end in upland areas and this was particularly
tragic because the farming community was already suffering due to the dropping
global prices and the changes in exchange rate between £ sterling and the Euro
(Law and Singleton, 2004).

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Turner (1976, as cited in Alexander, 1999, p4) defines
a natural disaster as “…an event concentrated in time and space, which
threatens a society or a relatively self-sufficient subdivision of a society
with major unwanted consequences…”  The definition
given by Turner (1976) aligns to the 2001 Foot and Mouth disaster. Firstly, the
farming society was threatened because farmers lost their animals and this in
turn led to farmers losing their livelihoods, an unwanted consequence. Moreover,
referring back to the 2010 Haiti earthquake according to Turner (1976) this
could also be seen as a natural disaster. The Haiti earthquake could be seen as
a natural disaster because the earthquake destroyed infrastructure, homes and
families, all of which are major unwanted consequences. For this reason, the
Foot and Mouth disease (2001) and the Haiti earthquake (2010) could be seen as
natural disasters as they correlate to the definition presented by Turner

Secondly, it is argued that natural disasters do exist
and occasionally they are said to be ‘acts of God’ and this therefore means
that natural disasters are both inescapable and certain (Apodaca, 2017). Therefore,
it could be argued that the Foot and Mouth disease, Haiti earthquake and Hurricane
Katrina where certain to happen, no matter what. Erikson also explores this
theme and can be seen to be supporting it within his book “Natural disasters
are almost always experienced acts of God or caprices of nature. They visit us,
as if from afar” (Erikson, 1994, as cited in Law and Singleton, 2004, p3).  Therefore, from Erikson (1994) and Apodaca
(2017) points of view natural disasters cannot be stopped. Natural disasters
have been previously criticised in the first half of this discussion essay for not
existing because as according to Sheller (2012) disasters such as Hurricane
Katrina and Haiti could have been prevented, or at least impacts minimised
through early preparation and emergency planning. In major contrast, the ‘act
of God’ viewpoint assumes that disasters are entirely natural and are a result
punishment for sin (Steinberg, 2000). However, a key weakness of the ‘act of
God’ theory is that it is used by officials such as governments to escape
responsibility for the disaster (Steinberg, 2000) For example, through naming
Haiti earthquake as an ‘act of God’ governments are able to escape the
realities of marginalisation of the poor. Moreover, in the case of Foot and
Mouth disease by claiming an ‘act of God’ officials avoid realities of the
disaster and how to prevent an outbreak from happening again in the future
years to come.

Overall, the argument put
forward by Turner (1976), Steinberg (2000) and Apodaca (2017) in that disasters
are natural I believe is that of a weak one. Firstly, using the statement
disasters are an ‘act of God’ is an escapist term and a way to avoid
punishment. I use the term avoid punishment because officials do not want to be
seen as responsible because if they are they may incorporate fines for
disasters and this claim of responsibility can also lead to imprisonment. Therefore,
then as a result, negative press will follow and whoever is fined to be
responsible will be faced with stigma. However, on the other hand the
definition of a natural disaster put forward by Turner (196) of an event which
threatens a society with unwanted consequences does hold some logic I believe.
There is always going to be a split in society of the classes, for example rich
and the poor and more often as we have found the poor are mostly affected, due
to marginalisation. However, class division on one hand should not stop a
disaster such as, Haiti earthquake from being labelled as ‘natural’, since the
weather is a natural element which tragically destroyed a community.

conclude, this essay has explored the claim that there is no such thing as a
natural disaster using three disasters, Haiti earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and
the Foot and Mouth disaster. This essay has concluded the two sides of the
argument and I have incorporated my views into each sections conclusion.
However, as I have established the causes of disasters are more complex than
they appear to be at first and this is because they transpire out of complex
social and natural interactions. It becomes increasingly hard to distinguish
whether a disaster is natural because as this essay has revealed humans are
almost always involved and because of this many argue that this removes the
naturalness from the disaster (Whatmore, 1999). Nevertheless, I am concluding
that indeed there is no such thing as a natural disaster. I am concluding with
this opinion because if it was not for the social and economic issues coupled
with human interaction then the primary and secondary effects of Hurricane
Katrina and Haiti earthquake would not have been so adverse. On the contrary,
this arguably does not explain the reasoning behind Foot and Mouth disease
(2010). However, it was found that the Government ignored advice given in 1969
Northumberland report into previous Foot and Mouth whereby it was said infected
animals should be killed and buried on the same day (Brooker and North, 2001).
This crucial piece of information again signifies that humans contributed to
the intensifying disaster and if farmers did kill and bury infected animals on
the same day then the disaster may not have destroyed such high numbers of
livestock. Therefore, with this in mind it can be argued there indeed is no
such thing as a natural disaster, humans coupled with inequalities almost
always do remove the naturalness from disasters.

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