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.




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Other upcoming Olios


Jan 24

Living Room Salon | Tough Poetry in Dark Times

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jan 31

The Dangerous Pleasure of Art

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

Feb 1

Feb 2

OlioHouse | Our Stories, Our Bodies: Rape Culture in American History

Taught by Jamie Warren
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 6

Olio Seminar | Space, Time, & Work: Understanding Labor

Taught by Lauren Hudson
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $75

Feb 9

OlioHouse | The Love Symposium

Taught by Skye Cleary
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 15

A Good Friend is Hard to Find: Philosophy and Friendship

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 21

Living Room Salon | Music and Environmentalism

Taught by Kristy Barbacane
7 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Feb 22

The Circular Road: Art and the Religious Imagination

Taught by Michael Prettyman
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 25

What Would Buffy Do? Radical Feminism and the Slayer

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at Neuehouse Madison Sq.

Sign Up - $20

Feb 28

Into the Mystic: Music & the Moving Image

Taught by Whitney George
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

May 17

Rethinking Refugee Trauma and Mental Health

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

May 29

Composing Beauty: Mapplethorpe’s Quest for Perfection

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at BAM Fisher

Sign Up - $20


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