Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Roderic Camp

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© 2017 Nicole A. Southard


To effectively prevent and mitigate the outbreak of natural disasters is a more pressing issue in the twenty-first century than ever before. The frequency and cost of natural disasters is rising globally, most especially in developing countries where the most severe effects of climate change are felt. However, while climate change is indeed a strong force impacting the severity of contemporary catastrophes, it is not directly responsible for the exorbitant cost of the damage and suffering incurred from natural disasters -- both financially and in terms of human life. Rather, the true root causes of natural disasters lie within the power systems at play in any given society when these regions come into contact with a hazard event. Historic processes of isolation, oppression, and exploitation, combined with contemporary international power systems, interact in complex ways to affect different socioeconomic classes distinctly. The result is to create vulnerability and scarcity among the most defenseless communities. These processes affect a society’s ideological orientation and their cultural norms, empowering some while isolating others. When the resulting dynamic socio-political pressures and root causes come into contact with a natural hazard, a disaster is likely to follow due to the high vulnerability of certain groups and their inability to adapt as conditions change. In this light, the following discussion exposes the anthropogenic roots of natural disasters by conducting a detailed case analysis of natural disasters in Haiti, Ethiopia, and Nepal.