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Zack, Race, and the Language of Disasters

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Abstract:

Currently, “Niger is now facing the worst hunger crisis in its history, with almost half the country's population in desperate need of food and up to one in six children suffering from acute malnutrition…” One wonders how wide spread knowledge of this disaster is in the United States. It is not cited prominently in my local newspaper nor given extensive attention on national media outlets. Yet, we can say without fear of contradiction it is a disaster. Thinking about the drought in Niger and the problems of both disaster planning and response, Professor Zack's book Ethics for Disaster, is a clarion call for collective action to help alleviate the suffering of people worldwide caused by disasters. She is on point that many of the world's disasters are not even noted in countries like the United States. Events that are labeled disaster in the United States often have lower numbers of persons injured or killed than the numbers seen in other countries. Consider that Infoplease places former US Senator Ted Stevens's death in a plane crash among its disasters listed for August 2010. Stevens's death is cited along with the news that, at least 1,600 are now estimated dead in Pakistan floods. While Stevens's death is newsworthy, it does not seem to merit the label of disaster. Such is the US media imbalance regarding the nature and status of events deemed disasters. Yet, events, like Stevens's death, in the United States, garner media attention and the impact of disasters on the rest of the world, unless they are a big news story, for example the Haitian earthquake, are generally past over. Thus, there is an imbalance in the reporting of worldwide disasters in the United States. This media imbalance has an impact on how many United States citizens view the problems of disaster planning and response around the world. The problems/disasters seem remote, distant, and infrequent. One could list the numerous disasters that are impacting on the lives of millions of persons outside of the United States that are given little or no attention here.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5848/CSP.2755.00001

Publication date: January 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Review Journal of Political Philosophy Volume 8.2: Naomi Zack's Ethics for Disaster
    The Review Journal of Political Philosophy publishes high-quality work in moral and political philosophy, broadly-construed. The Journal prides itself on its eclecticism, not limiting itself to any particular tradition, school of thought, or historical period. We publish articles, reviews, and discussion pieces from leading and new scholars from analytic and continental perspectives, along with articles that bridge the gap between these traditions. This volume of The Review Journal of Political Philosophy is devoted to the further exploration, elaboration, and criticism of Naomi Zack's Ethics for Disaster (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009). For those unfamiliar with the work, this volume also features an overview of the central points of the work in Naomi Zack's reply to the contributors.
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