Book Forums

Monday, July 11, 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. MDT

The Monday Book Forums are an opportunity for attendees to interact with authors and experts on hazards, disasters, and climate change. The concurrent forums will feature a brief synopsis of a selected book by the author, followed by a stimulating panel discussion of the work with experts in related fields. The conversation is then opened to the audience in what promises to be three highly interactive sessions.

Audience members are encouraged to read a selected book beforehand. However, these forums will be educational and thought-provoking, even for those new to the content.

Book Forum 1

Underwater: Loss, Flood Insurance, and the Moral Economy of Climate Change in the United States

By Rebecca Elliot, Columbia University Press, 2021


Underwater explores how families, communities, and governments confront problems of loss as the climate changes, through the lens of the US National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP): the key institution that economizes flood hazards and losses, turning them into a matter of dollars and cents. As a result, the NFIP shapes who lives near the water, on what terms, and at what cost. Drawing on archival, interview, ethnographic, and other documentary data, the book follows controversies over the NFIP from its establishment in the 1960s to the present, from local backlash over flood maps to Congressional debates over insurance reform. Though flood insurance is often portrayed as a rational solution for managing risk, it has ignited recurring fights over what is fair and valuable, what needs protecting and what should be let go, who deserves assistance and on what terms, and whose expectations of future losses are used to govern the present

Book Forum 2

Tales from an Uncertain World: What Other Assorted Disasters Can Teach Us About Climate Change

By L.S. Gardiner, University of Iowa Press, 2018


So far, humanity hasn’t done very well in addressing the ongoing climate catastrophe. Veteran science educator L. S. Gardiner believes we can learn to do better by understanding how we’ve dealt with other types of environmental risks in the past and why we are dragging our feet in addressing this most urgent emergency. Weaving scientific facts and research together with humor and emotion, Gardiner explores human responses to erosion, earthquakes, fires, invasive species, marine degradation, volcanic eruptions, and floods in order to illuminate why we find it so challenging to deal with climate change. Insight emerges from unexpected places—a mermaid exhibit, a Magic 8 Ball, and midcentury cartoons about a future that never came to be.

Instead of focusing on the economics and geopolitics of the debate over climate change, this book brings large-scale disaster to a human scale, emphasizing the role of the individual. We humans do have the capacity to deal with disasters. When we face threatening changes, we don’t just stand there pretending it isn’t so, we do something. But because we’re human, our responses aren’t always the right ones the first time—yet we can learn to do better. This book is essential reading for all who want to know how we can draw on our strengths to survive the climate catastrophe and forge a new relationship with nature.

Book Forum 3

Disasterology: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis

By Samantha Montano, Park Row, 2021


With temperatures rising and the risk of disasters growing, our world is increasingly vulnerable. Most people see disasters as freak, natural events that are unpredictable and unpreventable. But that simply isn’t the case – disasters are avoidable, but when they do strike, there are strategic ways to manage the fallout.

In Disasterology, Samanthan Montano, a disaster researcher, brings readers with her on an eye-opening journey through some of our worst disasters, helping readers make sense of what really happened from an emergency management perspective. She explains why we aren’t doing enough to prevent or prepare for disasters, the critical role of media, and how our approach to recovery was not designed to serve marginalized communities. Now that climate change is contributing to the disruption of ecosystems and worsening disasters, Montano offers a preview of what will happen to our communities if we don’t take aggressive, immediate action. In a section devoted to the COVID-19 pandemic, what is thus far our generation’s most deadly disaster, she casts light on the many decisions made behind closed doors that failed to protect the public.

A deeply moving and timely narrative that draws on Montano's first-hand experience in emergency management, Disasterology is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how our country handles disasters, and how we can better face them together.