What Keeps Us Up?

What keeps Disasterologists up at night? 

By Nick Bowers

By Nick Bowers

Studying disasters can really change your perceptions of what we should fear. I have a reoccurring nightmare of walking up to a tornado coming towards me. Last year a student in my cohort had a very vivid and complex nightmare involving or professor failing to evacuate us in time for an impending tsunami. 

A few months ago, Nick Bowers, took a series of photographs of climate scientists as they thought about the things that keep them up at night.

 The photos are quite haunting. I posted it on my personal Facebook page when I first saw it and noted that there were no Disasterologists included.

I thought it might be interesting to do a little series of my own with some of my Disasterologist friends.  Unfortunately we're spread out all over the country so there are no uniformed, high quality pictures, but the sentiment is there...


Nicole Youngman, PhD // 

Southeastern Louisiana University 

"The fate of New Orleans and the rest of Coastal Louisiana is largely in the hands of people who are not willing to piss off the oil industry." 


Amanda Savitt, Emergency Management //

North Dakota State University 

"I worry about the efficacy, and even the existence, of insurance when the probability of extreme loss approaches certainty. Insurers won't insure certain losses, and to the extent that people, organizations and communities purchase disaster or catastrophe insurance at all, as climate changes progress, I think we're going to find that this type of insurance is unavailable where it's most needed. In the long-run, perhaps the unavailability of insurance will incentivize migration away from places that face extreme risk, but I'm skeptical about how much of a role insurance has here, and even if it did have a role, where are we going to put all those people?"


Rae Cooper, Disaster Science & Management //

University of Delaware

"Growing social inequality will promote existing problems regarding disaster recovery for families and individuals unable to better their circumstances. Our society does a poor job of helping disenfranchised individuals gain access to resources for disaster recovery. Without improved access to these resources, those in poverty will continue to be impacted in startling numbers."


Laura Gould, M.S. Emergency Management //

North Dakota State University

“I try not to obsess about all the hazards facing our world today – asteroids, pandemics in a fast-approaching post-antibiotic era, climate-based hazards of increasing severity and frequency – because so much of it is out of my control. For example, the New Madrid’s schedule fails to be influenced by my fear of its destructive power. Yet, while the hazards themselves don’t preoccupy my thoughts, I am concerned about how people respond to those realities. I believe governments, both domestically and as a part of international coalitions, have a responsibility to create policies that will protect the world’s populace from the problems of today and of the future. My fear is that self-interest and short-term thinking reigns over a concern for future generations and problems just around the bend.”


Samantha Montano, M.S. Emergency Management // 

North Dakota State University

"The UN predicts by 2050 there will be an estimated 250 million "climate change refugees". That's fourfold the number of refugees than we have now. Our system is already overwhelmed. How will our organizations be able to grow in capacity so quickly? The world is going to have more refugees than ever before and there is no indication that we have any effective management systems in place. We are courting a legal catastrophe that will likely disenfranchising millions upon millions of people."  


John Carr, M.S. Emergency Management //

North Dakota State University 

"I worry about the dependency on fragile technology networks that the current generation has. One of the most important forms of preparedness is not, contrary to popular belief, the procession of peanut butter, flashlights, and batteries. It is the integration of people into the information systems of a society. It is whether or not people know where to go for information, how to use those sources, and how to subsist following a hazard event. Today’s generation is completely inseparable from technology, which in a lot of ways is a positive thing for Emergency Management professionals. For example, when the author Samantha Montano was sitting in class and a minor earthquake occurred in her LL Bean loving home state of Maine, she was immediately informed through text, twitter, facebook, phone calls, and voicemails. This is a great thing in the sense that she now has the information and can respond appropriately. On the other hand, what happens if cell phone and data services are down? Other than a person’s car, FM radios are becoming more rare as society moves toward streaming and online services. On top of that, not only are there threats from the natural environment, but online hackers are now able to shut down multi million dollar networking systems with relative ease (for example when the Playstation online gaming network was shut down for over two weeks in 2011). Without this digital source of information, you have removed society’s Corpus Callosum, greatly reducing their ability to communicate and forcing them to redirect information flow through “primitive” channels such as television and radio broadcasts."