Are we doomed? As individuals, certainly, eventually, inevitably. But as a species? As a civilization? Leading catastrophe engineer Michel Bruneau thinks perhaps not. The Blessings of Disaster draws on knowledge from multiple disciplines to illustrate how our civilization’s future successes and failures in dealing with societal threats—be they pandemics, climate change, overpopulation, monetary collapse, and nuclear holocaust—can be predicted by observing how we currently cope with and react to natural and technological disasters. Maybe most importantly, this entertaining and often counter-intuitive book shows how we can think in better ways about disasters, to strengthen and extend our existence as both individuals and as a species.
When it comes to rare extreme events, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornados, volcanic eruptions, technological accidents, terrorist attacks, pandemics, and even existential threats, it is in our nature to set ourselves up for disasters because the gamble may be worth it. But only maybe.
The Blessing of Disaster is the very real story of the relationship between humans and disasters – and it’s not a simple one. Bringing together his decades-long career spanning the globe as an earthquake and disaster engineer, detailed catastrophe case studies from extreme events like Japan’s Kobe earthquake and category 5 hurricanes in the American South, along with thoughtful and practical solutions, Bruneau provides a thorough examination of the structural challenges that face today’s (and tomorrow’s) world.
How we cope with today’s threats is indicative of what the future holds. Contrary to popular forecasts, it is not all gloom and doom – but some of it definitely is.
Michel Bruneau is a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo, a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineers and of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and – most significantly – Emeritus Director of a National Science Foundation’s national engineering research center focused on preventing disasters from extreme events. He has worked for more than three decades as part of multidisciplinary teams advancing the goal of disaster resilience and has received more than 20 prestigious awards for this innovative work, including a lifetime achievement award.
Michel Bruneau is a master of disaster! Drawing on his decades of expertise in delving into the mysteries of mayhem, The Blessings of Disaster makes the unthinkable thinkable. With humor and great wisdom, Bruneau takes us on what turns out to be a hopeful journey to confront a reality that we too often deny; disasters are neither rare nor unknowable. Along the way he empowers us to do what we must do; to think anew and act anew in face of naturally-occurring and human-made hazards. Bruneau reminds us that while we cannot prevent earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and much more from happening, we are not powerless in mitigating their consequences. He shows us that by confronting head-on what has always frighten so many of us, we can become less afraid about the prospect and necessity of building a more resilient world.
Michel Bruneau has given readers an entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny tour of a deadly serious topic: hazards and disasters and the ways in which engineering and scientific discoveries seek to reduce their impacts. Bruneau takes us through history and around the world to well-known and less-familiar disaster hot spots and offers fascinating details about past devastation and looming threats. A must-read for anyone—general audiences, students, and specialists alike—wishing to understand the challenges associated with disaster mitigation and management.
The central theme of Michel Bruneau’s book, The Blessings of Disaster, is that “it takes a disaster to change life for the better”. He approaches his theme with wry, witty (sometimes sarcastic) discussions of earthquake, wind, volcanic, tsunamis, climate, population, and nuclear disasters. His analogies to explain complex concepts and interesting asides to basic facts add to the readability for both technical and non-technical readers. The book weaves the effects of politics and forms of government into how humans react to and prepare for disasters with speculation on several scenarios for the future. The Blessings of Disaster is an enjoyable, yet educational read and a good rant on how we approach the safety of our infrastructure.
The Blessing of Disaster” by Michel Bruneau is a must read, touching the lives of everyone! It turns the broad subject of natural and anthropogenic hazards into exciting and delightful lessons for us all, for the benefit of all. The book is thought-provoking and factual, blending eloquently the physical phenomena behind hazards with human traits and psychology in response to hazards, and lack thereof that may turn them into disasters; a lesson for us all to learn. The author uses his technical expertise on earthquake engineering, blending it impeccably with other types of natural and human-induced hazards while bringing personal anecdotes, sprinkled with his wit, guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The author skillfully weaves through a range of disasters, ranging from earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, extreme weather events all the way through to those caused by technological hazards, ill-intended acts of terror, financial disasters, pandemics, climate change, and potential nuclear holocaust. Exposing remarkable similarities in the way we react to them, sure to spike your curiosity. The book will make you think differently about the way you react to disasters, or even better, act proactively to lessen their impacts. It will be read for a long time, benefitting its readers, and potentially enlightening policy makers. This book is a gem to keep in your library. An exciting and engaging book for all!
In this era of climatic changes, pandemic, and accelerating natural disasters this book is a fascinating story, from antiquity to modern times, on how theological, economical, political, and technological considerations conditioned human mind reactions and adaptation to "earthquake" type of events, past, present, and future. Amazingly written with perspicacity, candor, and humor, with several references about everyday life, this book will tell you how not to be fooled by shoddy statistical reasoning while improving your insight to face the probability, in fact the certainty, of the next "Big One"-P. Léger, Professor, Montreal Technical University and InterUniversity Research Center for Structures Under Extreme Loads, and Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineers
“Bruneau has an easy hand with cutting humor (“As for those brilliant minds who suggested that tornadoes could be killed using nuclear bombs to defuse their energy, a sarcastic slow clap is the only possible response”), and some of the scenarios gamed out will keep readers up at night. The result is an engrossing study of human complacency, myopia, and faulty risk perception on a grand scale.”
"Bruneau has tucked serious and rather involved ideas about risk, engineering, safety and society, as well as life in general, into a book that is also entertaining. He writes poignantly of the contradictions of a technologically advanced civilization with building codes that aim for life preservation but not the property resilience needed to prosper after a catastrophe."-Engineering News-Record
Surprisingly, the ultimate effect of The Blessings of Disaster is to offer hope and new considerations of the ultimate world-changing effects of disaster management. Libraries and readers interested in considering these perspectives in a lively history of hot spots and lethal subjects will find that The Blessings of Disaster offers plenty of solid science, engineering, and food for thought and debate.
This is not a book of hard science. It incorporates many sociological factors such as human behavior, history, politics, risk, and even economics in the analysis making it accessible to readers of many backgrounds and interests.(...) I highly recommend all emergency managers and emergency management students read this book. You will gain a better understanding of the sociological factors influencing human behaviors that turn hazards into disasters and maybe a few techniques to help change those behaviors for the better making for more resilient and safer communities everywhere.
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
Last updated on 24 Sep 2022
"This is a wonderful book that everyone who is interested in earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, floods, etc. must read. The author relays the facts but also writes in a jocular tone that makes his book fun to read. My lone complaint that is certain to be corrected in the final version is that when one is referring to our home planet the word Earth is capitalized. My overall recommendation is an unqualified thumbs up!"—Richard Burcik, consumer reviewer
Last updated on 30 Sep 2022
"I loved this book. Dr. Bruneau explains the science/engineering very well, in plain language and with a conversational tone. Aside from the fascinating topic that Bruneau brings to life, I loved the writing style, so much so that it was hard to put the book down. Even the preface is worth reading. I really felt that he was talking to me over a cup of coffee. Bruneau also uses a great deal of humor, with some laugh-out-loud moments. The debunking Bruneau does is excellent. Overall this is a great book. Thank you to Rowman & Littlefield, Prometheus for the advance reader copy."—Stephen Goldberg, consumer reviewer