Librarian's Pick Book Reviews

The Weather Experiment: The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future The Weather Experiment: The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future
by Peter Moore
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2015
416 pages. ISBN: 9780865478091

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

Today’s meteorologists use sophisticated models and maps to forecast weather systems days, weeks, or even months in advance. Although many of the processes have been improved, modern weather predictions can be attributed to the pioneering work of early weathermen. This book introduces these early innovators and their achievements. Men such as James Glaisher, whose interest in humidity led to the publication of dew point tables in 1854; Francis Beaufort, who worked with wind scales; and Benjamin Franklin, whose famous kite experiment proved lightning contained electrical energy. The book not only tells of these and other's contributions, but also provides a background into their lives and describes their struggles, disappointments, and achievements in furthering the science of meteorology.

A Practitioner’s Way Forward A Practitioner’s Way Forward
by David Brannan, Kirstin Darken, and Anders Strindberg
Agile Press; 2015
158 pages. ISBN: 978-0983074564

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

This book is intended for emergency managers and homeland security practitioners tasked with analyzing national security and terrorism-related data. The tools and techniques presented are practical, grounded in social science theory, and applicable to a number of potential terrorist and other violent groups. The authors not only explain the material in a clear and straightforward style, but incorporate instructional theory and cognitive science for easy comprehension and transfer of what is learned. Each chapter contains focus questions, explanations of key terms, examples, illustrations and summaries. There is also a list of references and additional resources at the end of the book for those interested in further reading.

Animals in Emergencies: Learning from the Christchurch Earthquakes Animals in Emergencies: Learning from the Christchurch Earthquakes
by Annie Potts and Donelle Gadenne
Canterbury University Press; 2014
288 pages. ISBN: 9781927145500

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

The topic of animal welfare was first brought to the forefront of emergency planning and response following Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of the hurricane that neglected many pets and animals in New Orleans, New Zealand agencies created a national advisory group to help guide animal welfare efforts during disaster. This book contributes to that effort by serving as an historical record of the rescue, shelter, and care of animals affected by the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. It looks into the specialized field of animal welfare management in disasters and reviews previous research on the topic. It also recounts the experiences and efforts of both national and local animal welfare agencies, as well as individual pet owners in the days following the earthquakes, discusses ways in which people can prepare for pets and domesticated animals such as livestock and animals in zoos, laboratories and wildlife parks and outlines issues for dealing with urban wildlife in the midst of an emergency. Overall, the book is designed to explore the human-animal bond and how it not only helps us cope in a crisis but aids in our emotional recovery.

Climate Change in California: Risk and Response Climate Change in California: Risk and Response
by Fredrich Kahrl and David Rolan-Holst
University of California Press; 2012
168 pages. ISBN:9780520271814

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

The economic impact of climate change on California’s diverse landscape and economy and the opportunities and challenges to mounting an effective adaptation strategy are the focus of this book. The authors devote a chapter to each of the seven sectors of the state’s economy—agriculture, forestry and fishing, water, energy, transportation, tourism and recreation, real estate and insurance, and public health. They provide evidence of the potential physical impacts of climate change on each sector along with the direct and indirect costs to the economy and suggest a pathway to adaptation and the challenges involved with it. If climate risk remains unaddressed, damages could result in the loss of billions of dollars to California’s economy. However, the authors argue that the state can develop effective strategies at a fraction of the cost, although it will take political and institutional will as well as additional climate research to help policy makers determine the best options in response to climate change.

Disaster Heroes Disaster Heroes
by Suzanne Bernier
Faith Books and More; 2015
150 pages. 9781939761323

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

We often hear and see the destruction and grief brought on by a disaster. Media outlets broadcast clips of people, homes, and even cities devastated by natural or human-caused disasters and photos of the damage fill newspapers daily. Disaster Heroes, however, shows a different side disaster. The author, a former journalist and current emergency management consultant, conveys stories of everyday men and women who chose to take action and help survivors rebuild and, in some instances, save their lives. The stories cover the globe, from the United States to Japan to Chile to Canada. They tell of the Pennsylvania man who helped save the lives of 33 Chilean miners trapped hundreds of feet beneath the earth, as well as the Louisiana couple managed to procure the donation of a fire truck for New York City firefighters after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Other stories relate the experiences of a Florida landscaper who worked to distribute food to survivors of the Haiti earthquake, the mother-daughter team who used the power of social media to help the residents of Joplin, Missouri, and a Japanese photographer who used his camera lens to help survivors of the 3.11 tsunami move forward with their lives. Through these and other heroes profiled in this book, the author shows how one person can make a difference in the lives of others suffering in the wake of disaster.

Natural Disasters as Catalysts for Social Capital: A Study of the 500-Year Flood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Natural Disasters as Catalysts for Social Capital: A Study of the 500-Year Flood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
by Kevin F. Adler
Universal Press of America; 2015
108 pages. ISBN: 9780761864660

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

Using the 2008 floods that enveloped Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a case study, this book examines how and why natural disasters impact social capital. It begins by introducing an anthropogenic understanding of natural disasters and then explores the topic of social capital. After describing the flood and its impacts, the author examines whether the city was strengthened or weakened by the flood. Through interviews with flood victims, he found that those hit hardest by the flood were more likely to focus on the recovery and had a less favorable view of social capital. Those less affected concentrated on the immediate response and tended to look at social capital as part of the response effort. This study contradicts Robert Putnam’s previous theory that social capital has weakened in response to generational changes by suggesting that it is an individual’s vulnerability and social mobility that affects their outlook on social capital.

Oregon Disasters: True Stories of Tragedy and Survival Oregon Disasters: True Stories of Tragedy and Survival
by Rachel Dressbeck
Globe Pequot Press; Second Edition; 2015
240 pages. ISBN: 9781493013180

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

This book tells the stories of 21 disasters that have occurred throughout Oregon’s history. Ranging from flash floods to volcanic eruptions to airline crashes to shipwrecks, each story explores how we face disasters as individuals. The disasters were chosen based on their influences on lives, practices, or policies. The author notes that despite weather as the “proximate cause…the direct cause of the disaster may be the choices made by individuals.” This point is illustrated throughout the book. One such instance is the case of the 1933 Tillamook wildfire, in which loggers—racing to load one last log before extremely hot and dry conditions forced them to cease operations—ignited a fire that destroyed 311,000 acres. Another is the 1959 Roseburg blast, which began as a structural fire in a building supply store but turned into a disaster when an explosives truck parked next to the building exploded, killing 14 people and injuring more than 100 others. Each story recounts what led up to the incident, the resulting destruction, and the heroics of those who went to the aid of others.

The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
by Grady Kelien and Yoram Bauman
Island Press; 2014
216 pages. ISBN: 9781610914383 (paperback); 9781610915700 (e-book)

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

In this humorous look at climate change, the basics of climate-related issues are told through a series of cartoons. There is a lot of information packed into this book. The black and white cartoon drawings add humor while highlighting the brief bits of text that accompany them.

The first few chapters, devoted to economics, population growth, Earth’s evolution, and climate science, provide the foundation for subsequent chapters. The characters in those chapters explain the impacts of global warming on life, how humans have contributed to the problem, possible fixes such as carbon pricing and less reliance on fossil fuels, and how individual actions can alleviate the problem. For readers with little understanding of Earth processes or who want to know more about the complicated issue of climate change, this book delivers.

Outbreak in Washington, D.C.: The 1857 Mystery of the National Hotel Disease Outbreak in Washington, D.C.: The 1857 Mystery of the National Hotel Disease
by Kerry Walters
The History Press; 2014
128 pages. ISBN: 978-1-53519-638-4

Review By Wanda Headley, Natural Hazards Center

In 1857 several hundred guests fell victim to an unknown illness while staying at the luxurious National Hotel in Washington, D.C. The incident might never have made headlines or found its way into history books had it not been for one famous guest—James Buchanan, the newly elected president of the United States. Buchanan was afflicted by a strange ailment and suspicions ranging from poisoning to a newly materialized form of plague abounded.

The author traces attempts of the medical community to discover the cause as rumors and panic set in. Some feared poison was used in an attempt to murder the president—a reasonable guess given the volatile role slavery played in a rough and sometimes violent political campaign season. He also looks at the conspiracy theories that pointed to political opponents in the South and conflicts with Cuba. In the end, the mystery is solved and the real, yet simple explanation for the outbreak is revealed.

A nice feature of the book is the reprint of several news stories and personal letters written at the time of the outbreak. These not only add interest but give an additional peek into a rather tumultuous time of our nation’s history.