A Paradise Built in Hell: Prelude & Epilogue Rebecca SolnitOne of the most powerful opinion shaper on “Disaster Sociology”
Context: Based on Case Studies• the San Francisco earthquake of 1906• the 1917 explosion of the munitions ship Mont Blanc in Halifax, Nova Scotia• Mexico Citys 1985 earthquake• the World Trade Center attacks of 2001• Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
The Book• Reinforces the argument that the community is the first responder in the event of a disaster.• It is about positive endeavor or human philanthropy in the event of a disaster.• It is not about well known philanthropist but ordinary people like us.• Shatters the myth/the general perception that in the event of a disaster the community will panic, react selfishly and are cowards.• Disaster survivors do not rape, loot, murder. Decline in crime.
Highlights contd..• Elite panic and worsens the situation (rich people, the media and the government)• Hazards are natural but it becomes a bigger disaster due to mismanagement by the government.• Unexamined belief of the government and the elites towards the community based on myth and rumor mongering.• It helps us understand society in a better way. “The very concept of society rest upon the idea of networks of affinity and affection”.
Reviews1. Impassioned challenge to the social meaning of disaster: New York Times2. Case for sheer dignity and decency of people coming together: Los Angeles Times3. Full of moving transcendent acts by individuals: san Francisco Chronicle4. A withering critique of modern capitalist society: The Washington Post5. The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature Ive come across in years: Bill McKibben
Words of Caution “Disasters are, most basically, terrible, tragic, grievous and no matter what positive side effects and possibilities theyproduce, they are not to be desired.” (Solnit: 2010, pg 6)
Relevance• Increased frequency and intensity of disasters• Impact of climate change• Lack of resources• Inaccessibility: Community left to fend themselves• Builds on the capacity of the community: bottom up approach• Proactive rather than reactive
Some Prominent Disasters• The Gujarat Earthquake• The drought and desertification process in sub- Sahara• The Indian Ocean Tsumani• Cyclone Nargis: Myanmar and• The Pakistan Flood“They matter immensely but language and distance as well as culture kept these disaster out of reach for me.” (Solnit, pg 8)
Points to Ponder• Does the community behave differently when there they are poor and marginalized leading to the scarcity of resources?• Is the behavior of people dependent on socio- cultural context?• Why is the altruism of the community evident during a disaster? Why not during normal times?• Can this argument be applied in the event of other humanitarian crisis like internal conflict, riots, wars?• Can this argument be applied universally?