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Playing Against Nature: Integrating Science and Economics to Mitigate Natural Hazards in an Uncertain World

Geophysicist and IPR associate Seth Stein explores natural hazard policies in new book


Playing against natureShould we build levees to prevent flooding, or should we prevent people from living in low-lying areas? How much money should we spend on making existing buildings earthquake-resistant, and how much money should we spend on building new ones to replace those devastated by natural disasters? In short, how do we prevent nature from surprising us, outsmarting us, and causing great damage?

In Playing Against Nature: Integrating Science and Economics to Mitigate Natural Hazards in an Uncertain World (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), geophysicist and IPR associate Seth Stein and his father, economist Jerome Stein, explore our often-flawed approach to natural hazard policies. The authors suggest that current policies do not take into account the many ways that science, economics, and risk analysis play into each situation of hazard. They recommend an approach to natural hazards combining policy with geoscience, engineering, and economics.

They advise humility in the face of nature, as well as improved communication between those who create natural hazard policies and those who use them.

“As scientists, we want to improve the science, but I think we also need to communicate the uncertainties better,” Seth Stein said at the International Disaster and Risk Conference in Davos, Switzerland, on August 28. “People on the outside should ask us, ‘How much do you really know about all this?’”

Seth Stein will teach a class based on the book in the spring quarter.