There's No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster

Anja Hemmingsen - Natural Disasters

One year after Hurricane Katrina, geographer Neil Smith wrote “there’s no such thing as a natural disaster”, arguing that disasters, regardless of their environmental origins and impact, are socially produced phenomena. Such causes, from fundamentally changing the topography of the region to the organized abandonment of low income neighborhoods, became evidently clear in the days following the storm.


To say something is natural, an ‘act of nature’, or the ‘will of God’, erases this social history, and in so doing removes culpability from those who cause disasters while shifting the risk and responsibility of the aftermath onto communities who are impacted the most. What lessons do we learn when we decouple ‘natural’ from ‘disaster’? How does this project, both geographic and historical, help us recognize patterns in the ways that disasters form over time?


Using examples from Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, this Olio will unpack several antagonistic social relationships: capital vs. climate, the State vs. citizens, and capital vs. citizens, that not only create the conditions for ‘natural’ disasters, but extend far beyond the single event. We will discuss how disasters, while decades in the making, do not have to be inevitable.




Location: Nowadays

56-06 Cooper Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385

Trees, ping pong, checkers, grass to lie in, fresh air, and the occasional passing freight train.




Interdisciplinary Learning with the Best Professors


Think Olio is not about learning a new skill or adding credentials to your resume. It is about getting together with other people and expanding our worldview. It exists as a conduit for fruitful discussions, a dissent from the regurgitation of facts, and an embrace of new perspectives.


Learn about joining the Scenius for $10 / month



Other upcoming Olios


Jun 19

The (Un)Enlightenment and What it Means to be Modern

Taught by Lev Moscow
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jun 20

Believing is Seeing

Taught by Briana Toole
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $15

Jun 22

OlioHouse | Breaking Bread: An Olio Salon Dinner

Taught by Brian Lewis
2 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Jun 23

Female Power and Desire in Shakespeare after #MeToo

Taught by Christina Katopodis
1 p.m. at Threes Brewing // Greenpoint

Sign Up - $15

Jun 25

The Artist in an Alternative World

Taught by Ward Regan
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $15

Jun 25

OlioTour | Federal Hall & African Burial Ground

Taught by Jamie Warren
6 p.m. at Federal Hall

Sign Up - $0

Jun 26

Jun 27

The Long History of Selfie Culture

Taught by Ted Barrow
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Jun 29

OlioHouse | Happiness & Hedonism Weekend

Taught by Skye Cleary
2 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Jul 7

Museum Trip | 'The 80s Show' Private Tour

Taught by Charles Riley
2 p.m. at Nassau County Museum of Art

Sign Up - $20

Jul 13

OlioHouse | The Power of Ego, The Stillness of Spirit

Taught by Michael Haltenberger
2 p.m. at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Jul 25

Frida's Fragrance: Art, Scent, & Persona

Taught by Jessica Murphy
7:30 p.m. at The William Vale Hotel

Sign Up - $20

Sep 19

OlioTrip | Cienfuegos, Cuba

Taught by Teresita Levy
10 a.m. at Cienfuegos, Cuba

Sign Up - $


Find out when we launch new classes!