How leaders respond when technological successes create vulnerability and nature ceases to be motherly.
Environmental disasters occur when natural hazards strike areas of socio-technological vulnerability. We expect our leaders to prepare for such threats, but they must do so using current science, which provides valuable indications of risk but not certainty. Raymond Murphy's study of the management of the 1998 ice storm - the most costly environmental disaster ever for Canada and the states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and northern New York - uses rare interviews with key political and emergency management leaders to provide an insider's view of the challenge of responding to extreme weather. While documenting a generally well-managed crisis, the interviews also reveal the slippery slope from transparency to withholding information that developed as the crisis deepened, and examine how conflict is resolved between leaders during a disaster.
Murphy explores whether technological development inadvertently constructed new vulnerabilities, thereby manufacturing a natural disaster. As the extreme weather in the ice storm may foreshadow what will occur with global warming, Leadership in Disaster also explores the politics, economics, ethics, and cultural predispositions involved in climate change, investigating how modern societies create both the risks they assume are acceptable and the burden of managing them. An innovative comparison with Amish communities, where the same extreme weather had trivial consequences, is instructive for avoiding future socio-economic catastrophes.