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Mar-28-2010 23:17printcomments

Book Review: Catastrophe Law, Politics, and the Humanitarian Impulse

Not necessarily “user friendly” - but a great contribution for those who want serious, academic knowledge.

(PORTLAND, Ore,) - Great insight with very real conclusions made a bit dry and academic. A paragraph made six sentences too long with six five-syllable words. A complex issue made more incomprehensible by convoluted language.

There is much to learn and grasp with this issue; the audience that needs to be reached will not have the time to dissect the language. Activism and policy change will only happen with the broadest of populations. This book has much to offer on the subject, but lacks the simple everyday language needed for EVERYONE – ACTION.

An example of both brilliant knowledge, but again too complex…

Not only do we know that exposure to catastrophic disruption is unequally distributed along lines of entrenched social disadvantage - we also have evidence that the responses of policymakers in the event of a disaster, and the relief they provide to victims - are often tainted by the same kinds of bias and discrimination that put certain populations in harm’s way in the first place.

Thus, disasters might end up exacerbating inequalities and discriminations, but, at the very least, they can serve to make the plight of vulnerable and underprivileged groups strikingly visible, by manifesting inequality in the rawest, most unadulterated way. They are powerful visualization devices.

I received Catastrophe in November and struggled to turn the pages. January’s earthquakes began to rock the world and cause immense damage. Haiti’s already poverty-stricken nation was devastated. This book has helped open up some of the hows and whys; begins to make sense of something that appears so random. Those pages began to turn faster.

I would again say this is for those that want serious, academic knowledge; I would have liked to see something a bit more “user friendly”. I would however recommend this to anyone working in or around the human service field. Those who are in the trenches will glean so much knowledge and will begin to gain some perspective on Catastrophe.

Find it at Catastrophe Law, Politics, and the Humanitarian Impulse


Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the belegured people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at:

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