Now online: portions of "Acts of God?", the latest issue of Southern Exposure (Winter 2004/2005), the Institute's award-winning magazine of culture, politics, and investigative journalism.

This issue's writers take on the concept of the "natural disaster" to show how the effects of disasters -- the lost and devastated lives, property destroyed, communities laid waste -- often have as much to do with politics and economics as they do extreme weather. Booster-driven development strategies place communities in difficult-to-sustain locations, like the tourist economy underwriting coastal development on erosion-prone and hurricane-vulnerable beaches in Louisiana, Florida, and the Carolinas. Corrupt or poorly thought out programs of disaster relief can funnel aid toward wealthy communities and corporate interests while prolonging and worsening calamities for poor communities. And environmentally destructive practices such as deforestation, mountaintop removal mining, and the draining of wetlands worsen runoff and make floods more violent and intense.

As global warming threatens to intensify hurricanes, raise sea levels, and bring the effects of sea storms farther inland here in the South, it will pay to consider just how unnatural (and avoidable) some of our disasters really are.