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The Theodicy of Natural Disasters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2009

D. K. Chester
Department of GeographyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpool L69 3BXEngland


In 1993 Frank Press, President of the United States Academy of Sciences estimated that in a typical year ie. one without a major catastrophe on the scale of the Kobe earthquake or Sahel droughts, some 250,000 people will die and losses of US$40 billion will result from natural disasters (Press 1993). In recent years much has been written about the physical causes of and human responses to natural disasters (see: Hewitt, 1983a, 1983b; Alexander, 1993; Chester 1993; Blaikie et al. 1994 and Chester et al. 1996, for extensive bibliographies), and this vast literature reflects increasing concern over disaster losses and a growing realization that most losses are preventable. Prompted by this concern the United Nations has designated the nineteen-nineties the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, or IDNDR. With the exception of a training manual for foreign mission workers published by the Evangelical Interchurch Relief and Development Alliance (Davis and Wall 1992), trenchant reflections by Austin Farrer (1966) and limited treatment in works focusing on wider ecotheological issues (eg. Russell 1994: 35–50), theologians have been conspicuous by their absence from what is now a global debate on natural disasters and their mitigation.

Research Article
Copyright © Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd 1998

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