The Big Ones

The Big Ones

How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them)

Book - 2018
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By the world-renowned seismologist, a surprising history of natural disasters, their impact on our culture, and new ways of thinking about the ones to come Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanoes--these all stem from the same forces that give our planet life. It is only when they exceed our ability to withstand them that they become disasters. Viewed together, these events have shaped our cities and their architecture; elevated leaders and toppled governments; influenced the way we think, feel, fight, unite, and pray. The history of natural disasters is a history of ourselves. In The Big Ones, renowned seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones offers a bracing look at some of our most devastating natural events, whose reverberations we continue to feel today. Spanning from the destruction of Pompeii in AD 79 to the hurricanes of 2017, it considers disaster's role in the formation of our religions; exposes the limits of human memory; and demonstrates the potential of globalization to humanize and heal. With temperatures rising around the world, natural disasters are striking with greater frequency than ever before. More than just history or science, The Big Ones presents a call to action. Natural hazards are inevitable; human catastrophes are not. With this energizing and exhaustively researched book, Dr. Jones offers a look at our past, readying us to face down the Big Ones in our future.
Publisher: London :, Icon Books Ltd,, 2018.
ISBN: 9781785784361
Characteristics: viii, 244 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm.


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VaughanPLDavidB Dec 27, 2018

This rather short volume was presented as a brief history of natural disasters, how they re-shaped the environment, and the psychological and social impact on the different human populations. In all these things it was adequate. The last chapter on emergency preparedness in Los Angeles based on a simulated giant earthquake was deadly dull and I couldn't finish it.

Maybe I don't fully understand the point of what the author was trying to convey, but I was very surprised that, in a history of natural disasters, there were no chapters on the Krakatoa volcano explosion of 1883 or the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, though it was mentioned in passing a few times. It seems to me that to leave out these events is like writing a book about the history of terrorism and leaving out the events of 9/11/2001.

Sep 19, 2018

I’ve been doing a lot of true crime and not enough other stuff lately, with the exception of the Ehrman book. Let’s switch it up with some general disaster books!

“Big Ones” is fantastic. Dr. Jones is one of the most respected scientists in the field of seismology. This book doesn’t limit itself to talking about earthquakes, though. Its focus is in lessons we can learn from past disasters which ended up being literal civilization-altering events. From the Lisbon earthquake and tsunami to Vesuvius’s 79CE eruption, she covers how this affected people and how they recovered.

Dr. Jones is an amazing communicator. The overall feeling I had reading this book is of sitting down to have a talk with her and just listening as she educated me. I have a greater understanding of how subduction zones work and why their earthquakes are so much worse. I know more about what the ShakeOut scenario really is and how it works. I know much more about flooding than I did before, and I’m glad I live up on a ridge now. I had no idea whatsoever about the Central Valley floods in California, but now I have a new story to research. And I’ve rethought my plans of perhaps moving to Iceland in my eighties - Hekla and Katla are scary volcanoes. If you’re new to disaster books, don’t let that stop you from picking this up. Dr. Jones gets you up to speed very quickly, and her tone is matter-of-fact and reassuring.

This came out in 2018, so it’s very up to date and talks about very recent disasters, even briefly touching on Hurricane Maria and its effect on Puerto Rico. I heartily recommend this to absolutely anyone who wants to know more about how disasters happen, how people can learn from them, and as a jumping-off point to learning more. Five of five stars, wish I could give it six!

May 29, 2018

Dr Lucy Jones is one of the best scientists regarding earthquakes and other disasters. When I lived in Calif she was always the 1st one they called on the news to explain what was happening.
The book lays out how the worst disasters throughout history changed how we look at what happened.
Very interesting and informative.

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