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Disasters List

This proposal is for Science for Peace to consider a project to identify the ten greatest (most lamentable and tragic) human-caused disasters of the modern age. A proposed motto for the project is: “Peace is more than the absence of war”. The project would have multiple goals.

The resulting Disasters List will present role models for the failings of our human-built environment. The Disasters List winners would be developed as “learning objects”. The Disasters List website would be open access; for discussion, and for curricular and learning materials. The idea includes school competitions for annual Disasters Lists, to involve youth in discussion on the causes and consequences of human disasters, and the nature of peace.

The idea for this project came from watching Paul Fusco’s moving photo essay on the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. I was left with two questions. What did we learn from this disaster? What have we done with what we have learned?

Sadly, what has been learned is used mainly as bits of evidence for partisan factions in disputes over technology, institutions and human behavior. Partisan strategies often prevent a wider public involvement in the lessons to be drawn from such disasters.

There are lists of the globe’s greatest natural wonders, the greatest human-made wonders, and the like. The Nobel Prize recognizes individual, collaborative and institutional achievements, not only for recognition but also as role models and for inspiration.

The Darwin Awards acknowledge the worst of individual human stupidity, resulting in the death of the individual and improvement in the human species by removal from the gene pool. This Disasters List is designed to link human-caused disasters to collective responsibility and, hopefully, human survival.

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