Recognising Global Interdependence Through Disasters

  • Anthony Reid


Only during the last two centuries have humans known or cared much about the sufferings of fellow-humans in remote parts of the world. Some sacred literature encouraged the idea that floods, earthquakes and eruptions were divine punishments for sinners inappropriate for human compassion. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tsunami began modern Western trends for state responsibility, and for empathy across borders. Victims of natural disaster began to appear inherently innocent, as opposed to victims of war. The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 was the first natural disaster to evoke a genuinely global humanitarian response, though the international relief organization of our times chiefly date only from the 1950s.

This chapter will review this remarkable transition, and the recent tendency for natural disasters to overshadow wars in both body counts and popular consciousness. The good news is that whereas the wars that dominated headlines in the twentieth century typically divided and generated hatred, the natural disasters taking their place in the twenty-first have tended to unite humans in compassion and concern for global disaster governance.


Global disaster governance Interdependence Disaster histories Humanitarian responses Natural disasters Wars 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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