The Age of Catastrophe

Disaster and Humanity in Modern Times


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About the Book

Disasters, both natural and man-made, are on the rise. Indeed, a catastrophe of one sort or another seems always to be unfolding somewhere on the planet. We have entered into a veritable Age of Catastrophes which have grown both larger and more complex and now routinely very widespread in scope. The old days of the geographically isolated industrial accidents, of the sinking of a Titanic or the explosion of a Hindenburg, together with their isolated causes and limited effects, are over. Now, disasters on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill or the Japan tsunami and nuclear reactor accident, threaten to engulf large swaths of civilization. This book analyzes the efforts of Westerners to keep the catastrophes outside, while maintaining order on the inside of society. These efforts are breaking down. Nature and Civilization have become so intertwined they can no longer be separated. Natural disasters, moreover, are becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate from “man-made.”

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About the Author(s)

John David Ebert is the author of four previous books and has published essays in such periodicals as the Antioch Review, Utne Reader, Parabola, and Whole Earth. He has also been a featured scholar on A&E’s Ancient Mysteries.

Bibliographic Details

John David Ebert

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 230
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7142-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0063-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v
Introduction: The End of Natural Disasters      1
A Brief Note on Civilization’s Loss of Command Over Its Environment      11

Part I: Disasters of Paleomodernity      17
1. The Sinking of the Titanic and the Fate of the Mobile City      20
2. On the Hindenburg Disaster and the Technologization of the Soul’s Descent to Earth      28

Part II: Disasters of Neomodernity      37
3. The Plane Crash at Tenerife: What It Unconceals      40
4. The Disaster at Bhopal and the Collision of the Biosphere with the Chemosphere      50
5. Being-Outside-the-World: Thoughts on the Space Shuttle Disasters      61
6. Back from History: Some Implications Regarding the Accident at Chernobyl      72
7. The Amsterdam Cargo Plane Crash and the Derailment at Eschede: Parallel Accidents      85
8 The Aum Shinrikyo Nerve Gas Attacks As an Attempt to Recode Japanese Society      97
9. The Columbine Shootings and the Absence of Meaning      109

Part III: Planetary Scale Disasters      125
10. On the September 11 Terrorist Attacks      129
11. Hurricane Katrina and the Flooding of New Orleans      139
12. Sichuan, 2008: The First Man-Made Earthquake      150
13. A Satellite Collision in the Exosphere: Some Ontological Consequences      161
14. Tiny Blue Globe: Reflections on the BP Oil Spill      168
15. On the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima Meltdown      177

Postscript: Global Accident      185
Appendix: A Disaster Timeline      191
Chapter Notes      197
Bibliography      207
Index      213