Cover image for Unnatural disasters : case studies of human-induced environmental catastrophes
Unnatural disasters : case studies of human-induced environmental catastrophes
Gunn, Angus M. (Angus Macleod), 1920-
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
xiv, 143 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


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This reference resource describes both the scientific background and the economic and social issues that resulted from environmental disasters resulting primarily from human activity. Categorized by the type of tragedy--including coal mine tragedies, dam failures, industrial explosions, and oil spills--this one-stop guide provides students with descriptions of some of the world's most tragic environmental disasters. Entries clearly describe each disaster by defining the cause, the consequences, and the clean-up efforts.

Readers will learn who the responsible parties were, the effect on the environment and people living in the immediate area, and the economic impact of each disaster. In addition, the long-term consequences, the likelihood of a repeat disaster in the same area, and the measures that have been taken to prevent a repeat incident are discussed. Entries include the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, the atomic bomb at Hiroshima, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Author Notes

ANGUS M. GUNN is Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Gunn (Univ. of British Columbia) describes about 40 major environmental disasters for which the principal cause was human error or deliberate human action. He includes chapters on failures due to coal-mining activities, dam failures, explosions, nuclear accidents, terrorist activities, and releases of toxic substances. From three to five case studies are included in each category. A description of each disaster is followed by an analysis of causes, consequences, and cleanup. Each chapter then ends with a few selected references. Since there is an average of only three pages per disaster, one is left with a continuing feeling of wanting to know more than the author presents. The selected readings can get one started in this direction, but they seem to be far too few, and most of them are not themselves primary references. The book is well written and well balanced, and the author, who previously wrote a book on natural disasters, has a good grasp of the technical background behind each of the disasters he describes. He discusses not only the technical, but also the economic, political, and sociological backgrounds of each disaster. A good starting place for anyone wanting to research human-caused disasters. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates. C. W. Dimmick Central Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
1. Coal Mining Tragediesp. 1
Turtle Mountain, Canada, 1903p. 1
Aberfan, Wales, 1966p. 3
Buffalo Creek, West Virginia, 1972p. 7
2. Dam Failuresp. 11
Santa Clara River, California, 1928p. 11
Teton River, Idaho, 1976p. 15
Vaiont River Valley, Italy, 1963p. 20
3. Government Actionsp. 25
Hiroshima, Japan, 1945p. 25
Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1946p. 28
Ukraine, Soviet Union, 1932p. 34
Morris County, New Jersey, 1926p. 38
Halifax, Canada, 1917p. 39
4. Industrial Explosionsp. 43
Oppau, Germany, 1921p. 43
Texas City, Texas, 1947p. 46
Cleveland, Ohio, 1944p. 50
Mexico City, Mexico, 1984p. 54
Flixborough, England, 1974p. 57
5. Nuclear Energy Accidentsp. 61
Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, 1979p. 61
Chernobyl, Soviet Union, 1986p. 67
Tokai, Japan, 1999p. 72
6. Oil Spillsp. 77
Coastal Brittany, France, 1978p. 77
Prince William Sound, Alaska, 1989p. 82
Block Island Sound, Rhode Island, 1996p. 89
7. Terrorist Actsp. 93
Eastern United States, 2001p. 93
Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, 1991p. 96
Washington, D.C., 2001p. 101
New York City, 1993p. 103
New York City, 2001p. 107
8. Toxicity--Industrialp. 113
Bhopal, India, 1984p. 113
Seveso, Italy, 1976p. 118
Minamata, Japan, 1956p. 123
Basel, Switzerland, 1986p. 126
9. Toxicity--Residentialp. 129
Love Canal, New York, 1978p. 129
Iraq, 1971p. 134
London, England, 1952p. 136
Indexp. 141