Skip to content Skip to navigation


What we’re reading: Hurricane Matthew and the politics of natural disasters

Photo: / AFSC

Hurricane Matthew has killed at least 478 people in Haiti, and 61,500 more remain in temporary shelters. As it makes its way along the Atlantic Coast, we take a look at why this is happening, who is being affected, and the politics behind emergency response.

Hurricane Matthew’s devastating toll in Haiti, by Edwidge Danticat via The New Yorker

"Of course, the less stable your house, the more terror you feel. I remember my parents describing their fright as they trembled inside their respective homes—my mother’s a wooden tin-covered house, my father’s a concrete one—while Hurricane Flora, a Category 4 storm, roared through Haiti, on October 2, 1963. Ask any Haitian who was there and is old enough to remember and you might still be able to detect a remnant of alarm. Flora, which also struck Cuba and the Bahamas, was responsible for thousands of deaths in Haiti."

Hurricanes like Matthew leave undocumented immigrants with fewer options to rebuild, by Esther Yu Hsi Lee via Think Progress

"Florida has about 610,000 undocumented immigrants, who contribute more than $588 million in state and local taxes according to recent calculations. But because of their legal status in the country, they are prohibited from receiving some forms of disaster assistance since they are less likely to be insured and may not have Social Security numbers to qualify for aid."

Hurricane Matthew in Haiti: Looking beyond the disaster narrative, by Mark Schuller via Common Dreams

"Disaster aid is faciliated by media coverage. An article in Disasters demonstrated a correlation in the amount of seconds allocated on prime time news to a particular disaster and the generosity of the response. However, the Haiti earthquake's high media profile—and the generosity it inspired—came at a price. With stories of devastation, appearing to many foreign observers as hell on earth with phrases like 'state failure' often repeated, foreign media coverage also naturalized foreign control of the response."

Hurricane Matthew’s strength is yet another climate change indicator, by Lydia O'Connor via Huffington Post

"'The nearly unprecedented rapid intensification we saw with this storm is favored by warmer oceans and greater ocean heat content,' Michael E. Mann, a leading climate scientist and professor of meteorology at Penn State University, told The Huffington Post. As the 'seasonal window during which sea surface temperatures are warm enough' to support storms increases, he said, 'we can expect to see the season broaden.'"

 "What We’re Reading" is a weekly feature on AFSC’s News and Commentary blog, where we share a curated collection of recent articles on timely issues. "What We're Reading" is meant to spark discussion, debate, and knowledge sharing, and the articles we highlight do not necessarily reflect the official organizational positions of AFSC. We encourage you to tell us what you're reading on these issues in the comments below.