ON AIR: Are there some places where we shouldn’t live?

These are very tough times for the people of New Orleans, the Indian state of Bihar and parts of the Chinese province of Sichuan.

Natural disasters have intervened in devastating ways in their lives, and in some cases not for the first time in recent memory. And while there’s a clearly a great deal of interest and concern about the efforts being made to help, there is also a debate about whether we have to accept somes villages, towns, cities or regions are too exposed to the elements?

Some are suggesting New Orleans needs to consider if it has a viable future. While the most recent volcanic eruption on Monserrat, there’s been debate about whether it’s too dangerous to keep on living there. You may well have examples from your country. We’d like to hear from you.

91 Responses to “ON AIR: Are there some places where we shouldn’t live?”

  1. 1 Dennis
    September 1, 2008 at 13:54

    Yes! There are some places that people should not lived…


  2. 2 Dennis
    September 1, 2008 at 13:55

    People are also forgetting California, because of the Earthquakes….


  3. 3 Dennis
    September 1, 2008 at 13:58

    @ Hurricane GUSTAV:

    The problem is also that people will live in the Gulf Coast, no matter what the authorities are saying….

    Syracuse, New York


  4. 4 Katharina in Ghent
    September 1, 2008 at 14:05

    Yes, there are definitely some regions that shouldn’t see a high amount of population. In Europe the Alpine region is well known for avalanches in winter and mudslides in summer, and often enough areas have to be evacuated or completely abandoned because the structure that the houses are built on are not stable and they start on their slow slide downhill.

    In India on the other hand, overpopulation is one issue and the other is that this year the monsun hits one area especially badly and next year it’s another; so what do you want to do? Abandon the whole subcontinent? Here it may be more imoprtant that people learn to live with the threat and start building accordingly, which of course is also a question on money – and since the areas hit worst are often rather poor, agricultural areas, the governments may not be so keen on investing there.

    New Orleans was originally settled on the grounds above sea level, and those were the ones that survived hurricane Katrina best, so possibly some things need to be reconsidered and the levees reinforced or better constructed, because the way they were built before was clearly not sufficient.

    Finally, I’d never consider to live near an active volcano, that sounds like Russian Roulette to me!

  5. 5 1430a
    September 1, 2008 at 14:11

    hello everyone,
    fairly interesting topic.well,i come from nepal,where the floods from Bihar is having an effect.i have seen my fellow countrymen suffering and has caused quite a bit of disturbance.
    well,i dont really think that we can escape natural disasters.where can you expect 100,000 people to move from Bihar to???so,i think they have to make it a way of life and prepare themselves(mentally and physically)for the tough times ahead.but yes i think that the ‘international oranisations'(Red Cross)should make an effort to reduce the number of deaths due to starvation.
    We should remember one thing:we cannot prevent natural disasters but we can prevent deaths from starvation.


  6. 6 Bob in Queensland
    September 1, 2008 at 14:12

    Yes…but where to draw the line is the difficult question. With benefit of hindsight we all know that New Orleans was a bad choice…but nobody is clamouring for the evacuation of the Netherlands even though a vast amount of that country is on reclaimed land behind dykes.

  7. 7 Devra Lawrence-Jamaica
    September 1, 2008 at 14:13

    I definately agree with that!

    In Jamaica for instance, there are persons who are just prone to experience destructin once there is a storm here, even normal rain. I know that some people do not have much of a choice about where to live, but some places are just extremely unsafe. The sea-side, gully/river banks are not fitting places to live.

  8. September 1, 2008 at 14:14

    Absolutely theres places where people shouldn’t live. I’ll add the fire prone regions of the mid-west, encroaching on the national park lands. Oh yes, and the surrounding areas of the Colorado which should be desert but which water is being tossed away on green lawns like it’s no ones business. Those folks are going to find themselves between a rock and a hard place in due time. But it’s their decisions.

    If people want to live in New Orleans, let them. But don’t provide rebuilding aid time and time again when the city has issues due to it’s location. “But it’s culture, we have history here!” Yes, but are you willing to die for that? If so, happy living. Until New Orleans can be deemed safe from rising tides, floods, and storms of increasing intensity, I think the intelligent thing to do would be to relocate to more stable and safe areas in the US. Yes, starting a new life is hard, but in the end it may be worth it. New Orleans seems to be an ongoing problem, and one which will likely not get any easier.

  9. 9 ZK
    September 1, 2008 at 14:15

    Regardless of where you live there is always the chance of a major disaster happening. It’s just your luck, doesn’t matter where you live. For example, remember the Iowa flooding a few months ago? No one expected floods that bad.

  10. 10 Maina
    September 1, 2008 at 14:17

    If you think about it there are places that that shouldn’t be inhabited. To the west of Kenya is an area called Budalangi that floods at the same time every year. This has been going on for many years so you can almost set your watch to the floods. From the outside looking at this area it would seem ridiculous to live there just like it doesnt seem like its not worth the troublefor Eskimos to live in the hostile conditions of the tundra & ice. But then again if you have never eaten cake you will never crave it….The eskimos, people of Budalangi, South Indians, people of New oleans do not see the places they live the same way as outsiders see.

  11. September 1, 2008 at 14:32

    Nope, no such thing. What should happen is that each person should be responsible for their own choice. If you live in an area below sea level, when it floods, don’t come crying to the national government because the obvious happened.

    I hate Cleveland. But, the one thing I have always said about it is this. Science and nature observe the law of conservation. What goes up, must come down, what goes in must come out. Mother Nature acts like a “tax agent”. Here in the north we pay her in installments every winter. Some winters more then others. If you live in paradise, she comes around less regularly. but when she does, she takes payment in full. Hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes.

  12. 12 Julie P
    September 1, 2008 at 14:33

    For the love God, yes! Building in high risk areas is a recipe for disaster.

  13. September 1, 2008 at 14:40

    Yes!! People should NOT be allowed to live in areas that are very prone to natural disasters that would amount to allowing them gamble with their lives; loss of lives and properties in these areas can be avoided by applying common sense which is not common any way.

  14. 14 Vijay Srao in Chattarnagar India
    September 1, 2008 at 14:40

    @Katarina “auslander”
    The region of Europe(Benelux) where you live is more “overpopulated” than India,plus of course in the Netherlands ,large areas of the country have been “reclaimed” from the sea.

    With proper management and education even poor countries can negotiate natural disasters(eg Cuba )

  15. 15 Kelsie in Houston
    September 1, 2008 at 14:44

    I think people who choose to live in “high-risk” areas should be allowed to do so, but those who make that choice should also be prepared to shoulder the responsibility for themselves that comes from living in such areas. If one chooses to live in New Orleans, for example, one should be prepared and willing to cope with a large hurricane striking a city that sits beneath the water table.

    I don’t want to sound heartless or cruel at all: I have enormous sympathy for NOLA, especially since my own city (Houston) has shared a bond with New Orleans since Katrina. However, residents of the city should not be deceived: living there (as living in most places) entails a certain risk. This moment is it.

  16. September 1, 2008 at 14:44

    Hi everyone, this a very interesting topic for all of us. I think some places are not worth living in. here in africa for example we are all endangered by the encroaching deserts that will soon get rid of any wet piece of land. however when we talk of Natioral disasters who do we blame or is our maker guilty of causing us all this suffering? all the same we cant sit and wait for this natural disasters to kill us. we should all hence be prepared for any eventuality that may strike

  17. September 1, 2008 at 14:56

    I think it’s great to live in certain places(for Example I prefer living in Ashabito-a remote village where I was born Brought Up) than I will enjoy living in luxurious life in Nairobi.
    But Sometimes people live in where they live in not because they want to but they have to.I wonder if Lubna will choose a safe place to live in outside baghdad.Or Mohamed in Somalia will select a safer place than Mogadishu?

  18. 18 Ogola Benard
    September 1, 2008 at 14:56

    No, we dont have to choose where we should live and not live. We only have to make the environment suit our stay. For example: Flowers are happy because there is a Gardener; One can’t ask God to allow him a better living before he or she was born!For this sake,is there provision to encounter the situation given the Godly knowledge? Development and not social caste?

  19. 19 Vijay Srao in Chattarnagar India
    September 1, 2008 at 15:01

    If you intend to talk about Environmental Geography, you are in the right place, because there are King College and LSE geography departments across the road from Bush House .

    Why don’t you invite professor emeritus d.k.jones from the lse on to your programme to talk about hazards ,risks and natural disasters.

  20. 20 Dan
    September 1, 2008 at 15:06

    People should be allowed to live where they like but they must also assume the risk as well. If you live in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Baghdad, Tokyo or Podunk USA you are exposed to some risk.
    The world is full of wonders to satiate desires both subtle and gross but it is not safe. If you want to be safe hide under your bed and play with the dust bunnies.

  21. September 1, 2008 at 15:06

    There is nothing we can do about natural disasters its the unnatural disasters like rogue world leaders we can do something about. Like the ones commiting genocide against their citizens like in Darfur. yet we are not. If we were to move because of disasters we will only move to the ocean or mars we cant move coz of disasters. There is not enough space only if they relocate us to mars which for now its not economically viable.

  22. 22 Raphael, Nigeria
    September 1, 2008 at 15:26

    it is not where you live that determines if there would be a crises or not, no body though Goergia will become a place where people should not live today. earthquakes gives no warning, it is madness to think you can avoid crises by your own wisdom. My prayer goes to people in those areas.

  23. September 1, 2008 at 15:30

    In Nepal naturally we don’t have any problem to live in any parts of the country. Remembering thing is that locality of Nepal is wide ranges from 70 meters height to 8848 meters (world’s highest peak Mt. Everest). But because of unequal treaty causes some times very dangerous situation especially in Terai region in summer. Unexpected and biggest floods that came in Koshi River is a latest example of unequal treaty. Which cause very dangerous situation in the eastern parts of Terai of Nepal and Bihar state of India. Besides that Nepal is very safe land to live.

  24. September 1, 2008 at 15:30

    Home is home, they say. I think that not even natural disasters or wars can make me think twice about leaving my home for good. Even if I leave now, I will always go back home someday.

  25. September 1, 2008 at 15:38

    But in future probably Nepal (Himalayan country) will be the world’s most disaster affected zone because of climate change and global warming.

  26. September 1, 2008 at 15:41

    This is a huge practical and ethical question. Are we talking about communities or individuals when we question their right to live in a particular area? In India for example millions of poor people live in the deltas where flooding is frequent but the land is fertile. It’s a difficult balance. With climate change more areas than ever are at risk.

    The Eastern seaboard of the United States is hugely vulnerable in the event of a volcanic explosion in the Canary Islands (all set up and ready to go when Nature decides) because the Tsunami will engulf a wide area of highly populated and valuable territory including New York.

    California lives with the constant threat of incipient earthquakes. Arizona is only a good place to live until the water runs out.

    On an individual basis I have been urging friends and family for at least ten years not to buy property in the dip of a valley (flooding), within tsunami range of a coastline, erosion distance of crumbling cliffs, and so on. But ‘not allowing’ people to make the choice of where they live is a much bigger question.

    I was angry to see on TV news emergency work being done on the levees THE DAY BEFORE the storm is due to hit the Gulf Coast – they have had three years to resolve this. The lack of political will and national investment to defend this area is shameful.

    Climate change and the need to protect our environment is the best front on which to fight, and the time frame is deeply disturbing. We should not “be allowed” to contribute to the Earth’s further deterioration. Of all Bush’s faults, his failure to address this issue sooner is the most damaging to mankind.

  27. 27 Vijay Srao in Chattarnagar India
    September 1, 2008 at 15:56

    Are ther some places where we shouldn’t live?
    We shouldn’t live in deserts ,polar regions, flood plains, coastal plains ,next to volcanos or on mountain sides ,but we do ,because where there are risks there are also benefits.

  28. 28 Apratim Mukherjee
    September 1, 2008 at 15:58

    We can survive at every place, may it be Bihar,Montserrat,Jamaica,New Orleans or XYZ. These were the very regions where other humans have survived before us. Its I and you who created a problem today. Nature is furious. It is going to take revange of what we all did. Only way out is respect our environment and live in peace and harmony. No place which has food,water air and shelter is “unliviable” .

  29. September 1, 2008 at 16:00

    I can’t say that I agree with the question. People will live where they want to live no matter what the consequences as has been proven time and again.

    With NOLA – much of the area which is subject to disaster is reclaimed – as Bob mentions above, Holland doesn’t have that much of a problem – but Holland doesn’t get hit with hurricanes a lot.

    The over-sight with NOLA is that investment in the infrastructure before Katrina wasn’t there – they got lazy or money was funnelled elsewhere.

    We cannot control the weather – but with the right defence we can sit it out rather than upending a city every 3 years.

  30. 30 DonnaMarie
    September 1, 2008 at 16:08

    Hi, Ros & the World Have Your Say Team,

    You’ve asked a complicated question.

    When I was in my native California earlier this year I kept reading how the water was going to run out by 2020, yet I saw with my own eyes from the air how building was going on even with the current home-loan crises. I don’t believe that the million-plus people who live in the desert in Las Vegas have the right to drain the Colorada River any more than the Angelenos and farmers of the Central Valley have to steal the waters of Northern California.

    I believe that the overflow of humanity that lives on the flood plains of India and Bangladesh should not be living there. But where could they go? They already live on the most marginal land because there is nowhere else.

    People also live on marginal land in Malibu, in my native California, in multimillion dollar mansions that are ultimately no more stable in an El Nino than huts in the Sub-Continent are in monsoon season.

    I believe that some people can live in New Orleans, but think it’s useless to try to rebuild a major city there, no matter how nostalgic people might be for it. We don’t even have to wait for the next disaster, it’s heading for landfall as we speak.

    On the other hand, I think people should continue to try to live in the Antarctic, doing research that can’t be done anywhere else. I think people should continue to try to live in space, and to find ways to conquer the huge pressure of living at the ocean bottom. Such pure research always pays off, if not in the way the researchers thought it might when they started. Learning to overcome cold, vacuum and the pressure of the ocean’s depths can’t help but help the human race to progress.

    Meanwhile, building on flood plains, in deserts (be they rich ones in Nevada or poor ones in Ethiopia) and on transitory coastal lands will no doubt continue with entirely predictable and tragic consequences, as we can learn about if we stay tuned to hear the latest news from Bihar and Louisana.

    All the best

    Donnamarie Leemann


  31. 31 Lubna in Baghdad
    September 1, 2008 at 16:09

    Are there some places where people shouldn’t live ?! Oh yes, Iraq may be ?! Haha ! :-)… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  32. 32 steve
    September 1, 2008 at 16:19

    This is a rather silly question, because every place has potential dangers. Anyone living on the east coast of the US is dead if there is a mega event at the canary islands, which would cause a catastrophic tsunami. Though rare, there are incredibly powerful earthquakes on the east coast as well.

    Anyone living by Yellowstone National park, that’s probably one of the world’s most powerful vulcanoes.

    There are risks everywhere. Florida is subject to constant hurricans, and because it’s so narrow of a state, there’s not much land to weaken the hurricane once it hits.

  33. 33 jesse
    September 1, 2008 at 16:37

    i’ll run away from anything that endangers my existence.and i think same for every reasonable person.

  34. 34 Marija
    September 1, 2008 at 16:50


    Thank you very much for your email. My country, Lithuania, is a quiet place in so far as natural disasters are concerned, but the places mentioned in your summary on disaster areas in the world seem to prompt strongly a move to avoid such areas as places of residence. It sounds reasonable in purely economic terms and the loss of lives makes the argument still stronger. This argument has been little heard in the news but it is very human. Thank you.

    Marija Liudvika Rutkauskaite

  35. 35 gary
    September 1, 2008 at 16:50

    Folks do all manner of unwise things, why should their choice of where to live be singled out for comment (if indeed any such choice was made)? Globally, extreme weather events and other environmental disasters are killing fewer people than ever they did in past. Death by automobile, starvation, homicide and drug misadventure are far more common.

  36. 36 Paul, Liberia
    September 1, 2008 at 16:52

    Yes! People need to know about where they live and be prepare for any natural disaster, because they were told about where they live….

  37. 37 Venessa
    September 1, 2008 at 17:22

    People will live where they want despite the danger and should be liable for their decision.

    No area is free from threat of natural disaster but there are regions that are much higher risk compared to others. When you make a decision to live in an expanse that is ruined or threatened by natural disasters regularly then that is a chance you take regardless of economic status. Personally I find rebuilding my existence elsewhere a more viable alternative than to losing everything including my life.

  38. 38 Taban Alfred Davud
    September 1, 2008 at 17:22

    We should not live in: moom, mars and war areas
    we need peaceful places to live in like earth


  39. September 1, 2008 at 17:36

    If we abandon New Orleans, we also have to abandon Miami – which is exactly what Allstate Insurance did after Hurricane Andrew. And we might as well abandon the banks of the Mississippi, which is prone to flooding. We can debate Ian McHarg’s ideas of intrinsic suitability, but I think that unfairly dismisses the emic perspective. People are products of their unique history, part of which is geography. I’m not from New Orleans or Miami, so I don’t think I can appreciate the value of these cities as much as the people who live there. But it does seem that these areas become so expensive to rebuild as a result of the expectations we have as a result of living in an advanced civilization.

    People have lived under volcanoes and areas prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes for thousands of years, because they happen to be productive. The floods on the Mississippi, for example, have left silt, enriching the soil, which is why the Native American people who lived there in pre-Columbian times were farmers – just like the Euro-Americans who farm there today. However the pre-Columbian people didn’t live in permanent structures.

    And that’s the real difference. Fishing villages can be destroyed by tsunamis and be rebuilt – if the structures can be rebuilt cheaply. Ports are not cheaply rebuilt. Nor are buildings, levees, streets and bridges. Volcanoes enrich the soil, the ocean gives us access to abundant sources of food as well as trade routes and the midwest (AKA “Tornado Alley”) has abundant precipitation and rich soil. The only thing that seems to raise questions as to the value of these places is the cost of maintaining them at the current level of civil expectation.

  40. September 1, 2008 at 17:42

    The levees in New Orleans could have been constructed to withstand any hurricane. Corruption and graft if that was contained New Orleans would have the safety of the levees. With the right precautions many places are livable that are thought uninhabitable. Affordable domed shaped hurricane safe homes are possible, even submersible.

    The very swamps of Louisiana are inhabitable by large commercial barges in the 150 ft.x 130 ft range and larger sport homes upon the waters. In times as now with the high water levels and winds survive with little to no damage. Just last night while HURRICANE GUSTAV was coming onto land. Public Television was giving a account about people who lived in the swamp in Louisiana living on a barge sporting their home.

    Look to Venice, Italy there is a whole city surviving in the water or to the China those that live in house boats on the rivers. There are some said that have never touched land. Environments are conquerable, look at that space station or the submarines and bases underwater, homes built underground so to survive the deserts heat..

  41. 41 Timothea
    September 1, 2008 at 17:53

    I think with all the climate changes happening /Global warming this question will have to be addressed on a global level. Many of the people potentially affected are poor and do not have the means or ability to move. At the same time constantly re-building high risk areas will not be an option as the number of “high risk” areas increase.

    It has to be a combination of personal choice and responsibility – but this is only true if it is indeed a choice. Most people can not just pack up and move to another “safer” area without money, jobs etc.

  42. September 1, 2008 at 17:57

    @Julie P,

    I agree that when building, we should plan (see my comments above on intrinsic suitability). But what do we do with the places that are already built (e.g. New Orleans)? London is in danger of severe flooding. New York is perched on the faultline of a major earthquake. Should tragedy strike, do we abandon them?

  43. 43 Jonathan
    September 1, 2008 at 17:59

    Living in San Francisco, I give this matter a lot of thought. I’m living on a ticking bomb. But so are most of us on this fragile planet. Some ticking isn’t as loud, and some people choose not to hear it.

  44. 44 rajasee
    September 1, 2008 at 18:02

    like people have already stated above there is no area in this world where there is no danger at all. From the mountains which is prone to landslides to the plainlands which are prone to floods which is taking place right now in Terai region of Nepal and Bihar of india, no place is safe enough. It depends upon people if they can keep themselves ready for any kind of disaster that occurs. Moreover in many cases it is due to the faults of the peopel themselves disasters take place. For intance the flood in Terai and Bihar, it is due to the ignorance and carelesness of the government that hundreds of people are left homeless!!!

  45. 45 Don Macleay from Oakland CA
    September 1, 2008 at 18:08

    Rather than ask if there are places where we should not live, I feel we should be asking how should we live in the different parts of the world.
    We in California should stop building buildings that can not take earthquakes and are easy to burn down.
    The people of the river valleys and deltas (such as New Orleans) should not build under the high water mark and protect their flood plains and delta grasslands.
    Those of us who live in those climates that suffer winter should be building homes that retain heat and those in the hot zones should live in homes that keep naturally cool.
    In other words we should get ready for nature and nature will stop being a disaster because we are not ready for it.

  46. 46 Line Walker
    September 1, 2008 at 18:09

    within reason i think, yes there are places where people should not live. all places have their threats, but yearly reoccurring disasters that cost others billions of dollars to fix need to be looked at with a more analytical eye.

    either build to survive and take the responsibility on yourself or leave.

  47. 47 Shomen Mukherjee
    September 1, 2008 at 18:16

    There are two broad scenarios:
    In certain countries, the govt plans and decides where their citizens can live. In these countries people should preferably not be allowed to live in such dangerous areas.

    In the second scenario, there are countries where people basically live where their ancestors lived, and have expanded. Often in some of these countries the govt. planning and implementation lack. In these situations (often, sadly these a poor people) don’t have a choice and they continue to live there. These countries should have a long term plan and slowly move people out. This again might be more difficult in highly populated nations.

  48. 48 Venessa
    September 1, 2008 at 18:18

    If you love where you live fine, but shoulder your own cost to rebuild over, and over, and over, and over…..

  49. 49 Helen in Seattle
    September 1, 2008 at 18:20

    I lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and I know New Orleans has dodged a hurricane bullet many times. In August 1969, Camille hit the MS gulf coast. If it had been only 15 miles further west NO would’ve been obliterated.

    The people of NO have known for decades that the likes of Katrina and Gustav could happen. As your guest speaker said, people choose to stay where they are.

    I live in earthquake and volcano country (western Washington) and I choose to stay here, even after a 6.8 quake in 2001.

    I also agree that there are no truly safe places on Earth as far as natural forces are concerned.

  50. 50 Patricia Howard
    September 1, 2008 at 18:21

    Most of the world’s population lives near a coast. Global warming at it stands today will raise sea levels by 1-2 metres; if it warms even further it will rise by 4 metres and above. Global warming is also driving hurricanes and other severe weather; drought is also a disaster that is affecting millions, and that will affect billions this century. Where are people supposed to go? It is very short-sighted to ask this question: rather, one should be asking “Why are we doing virtually nothing to reduce the risk to all of us? Katrina and worse represents the present of millions of people, and the future of billions more, on this planet unless we wake up and fast.”

  51. 51 jeff in portland
    September 1, 2008 at 18:23

    I live near St. Helens (volcano). I find it very ironic to hear people from large cities like New York or London that are targets for terrorist activities critisizing me for living near a volcano. I’ll take threat from nature over threat from humans any day.

  52. 52 Aboko Silvio from Sudan
    September 1, 2008 at 18:30

    In sudan, there are many places that not worth to human habitation.
    Places along the river nile like in bor and many areas in the upper nile are in risk of flooding at least every year.

    Currently there is a great flooding in some payams of bor county.

    However, its advisable for human beings to leave such areas which are of disaster every year.

  53. 53 Tom D Ford
    September 1, 2008 at 18:30

    Let’s remember that Katrina was a super-storm because of human caused global warming.

    I think that we just need to figure out how to live in dangerous places more effectively. Build better houses, etc.

    And some places like near volcanoes, well, be prepared to leave.

  54. September 1, 2008 at 18:33

    The places that are hard to live in are those struck by environmental disasters, diseases mismanagement and corruption. All this combined is a replica of hell on earth.

    Actually many places are unlivable because of man’s doing. There are conflict zones that makes hard for their inhabitants to live in and have to seek refuge in other territories. There are other places where pollution is a health risk. these are just examples.

    Because of the increase demands on earth resources to have a paradise on earth, many people are just turning it a hell for the future generations.

  55. 55 Shirley
    September 1, 2008 at 18:35

    Bob, I’m not sure if we can claim hindsight alone on Katrina. I have seen a documentary about cyclones by National Geographc that was done more than a decade ago in which dire predictions were made for New Orleans in the face of a hurricane. The computer imaging sunk my stomach to my toes, because they might just as well have been newsreel of Katrina. We had the information. We should have known better. I do feel that the greater responsibility lies with those who failed to maintain the levees. Perhaps if the levees had held, we would not have been made witnesses to massive death and destruction.

  56. 56 Trenton
    September 1, 2008 at 18:38

    Copy of E-mail I sent

    I’m an American and I’m sick of the money being wasted on the poor attempt to maintain New Orleans. It seems obvious at this point that the government is never going to take the requisite measures necessary to fully rebuild and restore the levees. Hurricane seasons are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity because of increasing Atlantic and Gulf water temperatures so it is only a matter of time before the city ends up completely under water. Additionally, New Orleans is already below the surrounding water level and that water level is probably going to increase because of rising sea levels. I think it’s time to let the natural environment reclaim the region and spend all the money currently being wasted on something that may actually make a difference; relocating people to new cities, higher education and health services for instance.

    Portland, Oregon

  57. 57 Jim_Davidson
    September 1, 2008 at 18:38

    I live in Ramona, in Southern California… Two of the biggest wildfires in california history happened within a mile of my house, in the last few year… Yet, I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I think the answer is standards: building standards, wildfire clearance standards, etc. If it’s possible to build safe homes in otherwise dangerous areas, then go for it. To say that you live in a place where there are no earthquakes is foolish: what happens to all those buildings that have been built under codes that don’t take earthquakes into account?
    Here, there are codes to protect us. you can’t build in a floodplain. You have to clear brush around your house. You have to meet earthquake standards. That is an approach that makes sense. It does not make sense to move folks arbitrarily. We should be responsible for our own lives!

    JIM 🙂

  58. 58 Vijay Srao in Chattarnagar India
    September 1, 2008 at 18:41

    Most people in the world don’t really have a choice about where and how they live?
    In the USA you can pick up and move to another place with relative ease and start over again.

  59. 59 M. Meyer
    September 1, 2008 at 18:43

    From a Pacific Northwest US perspective re your conversation today:
    Should Seattle and Portland and all of California be evacuated and built elsewhere due to threats from earthquakes and volcanoes? Maybe so….
    From a middle US perspective: Should human settlements be banned from the farm belt of the US because of unpredictable tornados or floods? Maybe so…
    Look, folks, we have to recognize that we live on a restless planet…and there are huge numbers of us humans with ever higher expectations as to how we want to be treated by the planet we live on.
    Thanks for your program. Keep on with this thought…..

  60. 60 Bill
    September 1, 2008 at 18:45

    I can defend people living in New Orleans and Monserrat. People have lived there for hundreds of years. But I cannot defend people who choose to live in brushy canyons above Los Angeles, who then expect local firefighters to risk their lives keeping their houses from burning during fire season. Same goes for others in California who live in fire-prone areas. These areas should be off-limits to housing and local governments should enforce such regulations.

  61. 61 gonzalo edward
    September 1, 2008 at 18:47

    My answer is yes. I am from Argentina where there are not so many natural disasters as it is the case for other places in the world; but I believe that there some places where human beings should definetely avoid living. They should know it before settling in dangerous parts of the planet.

  62. 62 Vijay Srao in Chattarnagar India
    September 1, 2008 at 18:48

    There are 20 million Bangladeshi illegal immigrants/refugees in India.

  63. 63 Iris Detweiler
    September 1, 2008 at 18:49

    It matters where you li8ve. In 2007 Cleveland, Ohio was rated the safest place to live–as far as natural disasters are concerned.

  64. 64 Tom D Ford
    September 1, 2008 at 18:51

    We ought to change from helping after disasters to prevention of the problems caused by disasters.

    NASA is working out how to make it possible to live on the moon and eventually on Mars, maybe we ought to put them to work on better ways to live on our planet Earth, better engineering of houses and other buildings.

  65. 65 Stephen Odoi-Larbi
    September 1, 2008 at 18:53

    The people of New Orleans are in a devastating situation. May God save their lives. Many places have been named as disaster prune areas and yet people choose to live without considering its impasse. In Ghana, some places have been named as disaster prune areas, example McCarthy Hill has been named by the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) as an earthquake area but yet people are still living there without bothering what the future holds for them. I think it is time that government of the various countries come out appropriate policies to help evacuate all people living in disaster prune areas condering the effects they have on the economy when a disaster strikes.

  66. 66 eric
    September 1, 2008 at 18:56

    nearly every area in our country has natural diseasters be they earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, etc. We all collectively pay our taxes, and our mutual responsibility to protect eachother and our sense of humanity must exceed some boiled down math equation of risk analysis. eric, San Diego

  67. 67 Jerome Rashid
    September 1, 2008 at 18:57

    Hurricane season takes place every year. With the idea of people should not live in areas prone to disaster then we would need to either disolve the countries in the caribbean. For they get hit by nearly every tropical storm, hurricane, and tropical depression that forms. The next issue is where would we the world place these people. I’m sure all “like” the idea of Castro getting a larger area to rule. I’m sure he “likes” the idea of others saying his country can no longer exsist.

    We as people have stopped lava from continuing to flow and devistate property. Yet we feel we can’t protect areas from floods, effects of hurricanes? Earthquakes are not something we can predict. Even places in the US such as the state of Missouri must think about earthquakes. North Carolina has to worry about them as well. Places people feel are safe is just relatively safe. We have populated most of this world and people love the beach. Yet that would mean the whole gulf coast of the US would have to move. If we put thought in how to protect areas then we as a people can continue to grow.

  68. 68 stefan
    September 1, 2008 at 18:57


  69. September 1, 2008 at 18:57

    The city of New Orleans is like the old cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, both equal in vain prosperity, party, carnivals, corruption, evil and sexual aberrations.
    The day shall come when the Ocean shall swallow the whole city, and then what?

    It is ridiculous that the people of this country spent billions of dollars for a place that have little benefit for the US, besides the oil refinery, what is there?

    The power of nature would continue coming down to this earth and men has not power to stop it, but in the same time people should not be so stupid to continue building in areas that are expected to be destroy by natural disaster. Why should I pay for people stupidity? If you want to live in New Orleans that’s ok with me , but get your own money and pay your own way. New Orleans is and always would be the capital city of Welfare and of people that can not do things for themselves.

    This is political correctness at its best.

    Salt Lake City, Utah

  70. 70 jonathan
    September 1, 2008 at 18:58

    Living in San Francisco, I give this matter a lot of thought. I’m living on a ticking bomb. But so are most of us on this fragile planet. Some ticking isn’t as loud, and some people choose not to hear it. Jonathan

  71. 71 Jessica in NYC
    September 1, 2008 at 19:09

    As other bloggers have stated, there is no place in this world safe of all dangers. In NYC, we don’t have high risk of hurricanes or tornados, but we are a high risk target area from terrorism. In places like New Orleans we keep referring to the poor people who returned, but what about the wealthy people who immediately came back and rebuilt business and housing areas? There were many reports of how many people were being priced out of their communities.

    I think people will continue to live in areas that have risk factors no matter the price or threat.

  72. 72 Don Macleay from Oakland CA
    September 1, 2008 at 19:11

    There is no such thing as a natural disaster really.

    These are all predictable and cyclical events.

    So why not use our foreknowledge to just be prepared for what we know is to come sooner or later in all the places we people live on this planet? (the answer is of course social class, race, national wealth, corruption and all the normal human inequalities)

    As to all this anti-social talk about who should pay their own way, well the BBC invited it in the way they phrased the question. That is kind of typical of how they view things and should not be confused with the British people, who in their day to day lives know full well why we should fight all the fires, care for all the sick and teach all the children.

    We are all a burden on each other in some way, usually in the economic inputs that support our way of life. Let nature be nature and be prepared for it. Then let society just be social and realize we are all going to face consequences whenever and wherever there is a disaster and prepare for that as well. We all live better when we are ready to deal with the real world, including the one of our own creation.

    If this was not true we would not have schools or fire departments.

    Maybe Owen Bennett Jones could do a special on how poor people in homes that burn easily are a burden on the “common man” who lives in a nice, fireproof brownstone in a good area with good fire inspection.

    Once again we got another BBC in-depth look at a questionable question.


  73. September 1, 2008 at 19:12

    Like my forefathers like your forefathers, they moved to better places in such of more stable or better climate or lands. In today’s industrious age yes we can combat certain aspects of weather or adapt to certain climates. BUT they are some places that have become violent and are NOT safe any more, it’s not worth the tax payers money nor the lives lost or investments lost after such a calamity passes by. If they where able to evacuate such large cities within days am sure they can resettle these people in much safe areas.

    It’s sad to see people live in such dangerous places and have to loose their lives in such a way.

  74. 74 Freeman
    September 1, 2008 at 19:18

    Ancient man was good avoiding regions where he could not tame nature. I think that is a lesson we should learn. People can leave anywhere they want but it is not in their power to determine what happens to them there, especially where the forces of nature are concerned.

  75. September 1, 2008 at 19:21

    Curtis Edson from Corvallis, Oregon emails:
    This is a very difficult decision, however I would ask if we should force people from where they live due to a history of man-made disasters, e.g. war. Should we not allow people to live in the Gaza Strip? There is a long history of violence, and costly damage in the region. We in America keep getting ourselves involved in international affairs which cost the tax payers too much money.
    To answer your question directly, I think that people should be able to live where ever they want, but if there is a precedence of disaster, then they should be responsible for their own fate and recovery.

  76. 76 Jarod Bishop
    September 1, 2008 at 19:23

    Jarod Bishop from Portland, Oregon emails:
    In response to whether or not people should be trying to live in disaster prone areas:
    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the real reason why New Orleans has lost its ability to handle large hurricanes like Gustav and Katrina. The US Army Corps of Engineers spent years dredging the canals around New Orleans for shipping channels, destroying the natural flood control systems that had been working for thousands of years. Now, when water levels rise there isn’t a natural ecosystem of plants and soils to absorb it all. Instead, it goes directly into the developed areas we now are failing to protect.
    The real discussion should be focused on how humans are destroying our environment and its ability to cope with natural disasters that have always been regular occurrences.

  77. 77 Linda
    September 1, 2008 at 19:24

    Linda in Portland, Oregon emails:

    I just heard someone say the US government doesn’t care about cities. Republicans don’t care about classes of people, regardless of where they are. They have shown this at every opportunity, and yet there is an amazing amount of support among poor people for Republicans.

    As long as Republicans get votes and are allowed to steal elections there will be a huge portion of society that gets the short end of the stick.

  78. 78 Tom D Ford
    September 1, 2008 at 19:28

    Seems like lots of folks want to blame people for choosing to live in some areas, but what about children who were born there? They didn’t get to make a choice. Should they be left to suffer because of their parents choice? I don’t think so.

  79. September 1, 2008 at 19:32

    Holland comes to mind because most areas are under sea level but protected by dykes that are yet beig raised to keep up with rising mean sea level by good forward planning by the Dutch to cope with nature’s ways. Of course some areas are beyond man’s control while yet in other places people are prepared to take the risk and trust to god or luck or to modern ways of coping with disasters. Vesuvius is a good example where people are yet building closer to the volcano than ever before! The tsunami put paid to living safely by the sea side. The irony is that more people are dying due to man-made wars now than from any natural disaster at terrific cost to the taxpayer! We need intelligent leaders and CHANGE to cope with both.

  80. 80 Jessica in NYC
    September 1, 2008 at 19:32

    @ Don Macleay from Oakland CA
    Agreed, very phrased, sir!

  81. 81 Sheikh Kafumba Dukuly
    September 1, 2008 at 19:37

    Hey Ros,
    People can not avoid nature. So it is impossible to decide whether living up a mountain or in a valley can stop a disaster from striking at us. Nature will always take its course.

  82. 82 Eric Abramson
    September 1, 2008 at 19:41

    Eric Abramson emails:

    This issue is about risk. Make sure you make a distinction between human failure and true natural disaster.

    I live in an area of Colorado considered to be some of the most dangerous wildfire areas in my state. As a wildland firefighter, I’ve witnessed the force of destruction forest fires pose to human beings.

    I understand the risk of living in the “urban interface” and understand the consequences of losing my home to disaster. Flooding is not an issue up here. Wherever you go, there is true risk for human beings.

    It should not stop people from traveling or living where they do. Just as long as they are informed and a viable protection/warning/ evacuation system is in place, risk can be reduced.

    Where and what is truly safe on this or any planet?

    Run from fires in Colorado, earthquakes in China, floods in Louisiana, drought in Africa. etc. etc.

    Reduce risk… and enjoy the benefits of living wherever you happen to.

  83. 83 Pangolin- California
    September 1, 2008 at 20:40

    People need to learn to live with the natural world where they are. In California the most dangerous conditions aren’t earthquakes but fires, floods and mudslides in that order. Earthquakes require a lot of protection and do a lot of damage but don’t take that many lives because we are prepared.

    If you live within the means of your environment you succeed; if not failure can find you extra-crispy. I wonder when governments will learn this lesson?

  84. September 1, 2008 at 21:04

    @ Solomon U from SLC, Utah

    A man named Dubois once successfully had a law passed in Idaho that prevented Mormons from voting. Why? Because the church practiced polygamy, which, then, as now, was seen as a moral outrage. So, following your logic, if Southern Utah is destroyed from a natural disaster, it must be God punishing your baby raping Mormon bretheren, right?

  85. September 1, 2008 at 21:31

    One thing I’m concerned about, that I don’t think anyone has mentioned, is that, while people may or may not have much control over staying in dangerous areas, there are some pretty important inanimate objects also at risk.

    A whole heck of a lot of the world’s artistic and cultural heritage is completely at risk because it’s collected in the great museums of the coastal cities, and the waters WILL be rising, soon, a lot! At least The Cloisters (NY state) are on top of a cliff! But so much else is at risk — the Smithsonian and everything else in DC, NYC, SF, LA, Tokyo, London, and on and on! Documentary heritage, IMHO, is not in as much danger, because it’s more capable of being digitized; but how long will it take to catch up on that … so the great libraries of the big cities and their universities also need to be considered…

    THESE things, art, sculpture, etc, it would be possible to move away from the water threat, but I’ve seen no news or articles about even planning to do so. Can somebody tell me that there ARE people thinking about this issue, please?

  86. 86 jamily5
    September 1, 2008 at 21:41

    Moving is not that simple.
    And, , how many of us would welcome tons of people in our neighborhoods?
    Remember the reports from Texas when Katrina victims started pouring in?
    What about when Zimbabweans poured in to SA?
    I knowit was not a natural disaster. But, the sentaments were the same.

    So, sure, “just move,” is an easy solution, if you aren’t the one who is moving.
    And, isn’t there a larger question,What can we do about these natural disasters?
    Today Louisiana, tomorrow…… …

  87. 87 Tom
    September 2, 2008 at 00:57

    If the risk of natural disaster dictates where people should live and should not live, then there’ll be entire countries that’ll need to be evacuated. This includes Japan as it lies on a faultline. However, living in constant fear of natural disaster doesn’t stop certain societies from becoming successful. With creativity and social discipline, humans could adapt and overcome many of nature’s furies.

    If you ask me if there are places where people should not live, I’d say given the increasingly huge global population any remaining arable land that’s not yet covered by concrete. These resource yielding lands should be reserved for agricultural or conservation use. China, for example, is losing hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland every year to its growing metropolises.

    One day we may have little chioce but to live on the deserts, mountaintops or stratospheric mega-highrises while paved lands are ploughed over so that we could feed the world’s population.

  88. 88 Gretchen Eldrich
    September 2, 2008 at 15:58

    it seems clear that New Orleans is increasingly nonviable. The wetlands barriers are gone, hurricanes are stronger each year and they got these concrete walls to try and keep the city from drowning, and they fail when stressed.

    These at risk low areas should be rebuilt on higher ground.

    I know people love their homes and it’s easy for me to say living well inland, but beyond a certain point I don’t think the US (taxpayers) should be expected to annually shell out emergency aid because people want to live below the reasonably expectable storm surge waterline. We got relatively lucky with Gustav, but how many times will we bail out New Orleans?

    Same thing applies to my thinking for people who insist on living on dry wooded mountaintops in California which annually burst into flames. There is a predictable, human-caused reason for this, fire is nature’s way of clearing out dry debris from the forest, these wildfires are supposed to happen from time to time, efforts to prevent them only increase the odds of a huge disaster that no one can put out for weeks, as the dry fuel on these slopes builds and builds.

    To build a house in such places is absurd. To expect to be rescued, to rebuild, to be rescued again, to rebuild, to expect people to risk their lives to save your home that you foolishly insist on building on top of a pile of dry twigs is just plain arrogant. I mean, just soak the lumber in gasoline before construction begins, save a step.

  89. 89 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    September 2, 2008 at 18:16

    Hi WHYSers,

    I missed this one yesterday, however, the answer is definitely yes! There are some known disaster zones that need to be considered as unsafe for human habitation. In Jamaica, one of those places is near the sea on the south coast and is always damaged in storms and hurricanes that threaten that part of the country. It’s called ‘Portland Cottage’. The government, under a previous administration, authorised that people should not live in these areas, as the damage to lives and property were exponential. I don’t know, however, whether that was mandated and or enforced.

  90. 90 Alison
    September 2, 2008 at 18:29

    If you can actually get your home insured in a certain area, then you should be allowed to build there. If no one will insure you or if you are unwilling to pay the high insurance premium, then you shouldn’t be living there or you should expect to shoulder the responsibility if something happens.

    The story of Californians building in fire and slide prone areas is a perfect example. Many of them don’t have insurance because it is too expensive. They build anyway and expect taxpayers to rebuild for them when their house is swept away in a mudslide. That should not be acceptable.

    Katrina was a horrible tragedy (and still is really), but it taught New Orleans a valuable lesson… when a hurricane is coming, get out of the way! Do not depend on manmade structures to keep you safe from such a powerful force of nature in such a dangerous place. New Orleans was naive to believe the city could stand up to a direct hit from a hurricane that big. Now we know better.

  91. 91 parth guragain
    September 3, 2008 at 08:04

    i don’t think that bihar and terai region of nepal is disaster prone region .it is due to the poor mentainance of dam by indian government disaster strucked.beside this social and economic condition of people living in this region made this disaster more dangerous.

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