Evaluation: Twenty years ago natural hazards were a major topic of study as people were seen to be at risk from the environment. Today the situation appears to be reversed, and there is concern that t

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The 20th century, especially in the second half, has been one of rapid change in the Earth's environment. The impact of humans on the physical form and functioning of the Earth have reached levels that are global in character, and have done so at an increasingly mounting speed. 20 years ago the environment was seen as posing a threat to the future of humanity as death rates from natural hazards had increased dramatically since the turn of the century. The Earth though has always been plagued by natural disasters. Now, with the world population growing at a rapid rate more people are living in hazard prone areas. Events which may have gone unnoticed previously, only become hazards when there is intervention with humans and their lifestyle. With the discovery of the ozone hole in the 1980's attention was now more focused on the threat humans were posing to the environment.

With scientific evidence to back up pessimistic predictions of our future, most people, through media coverage, political pressures and general concern now see the environment as being truly threatened by human progress and in desperate need of help.

Natural hazards have been defined as "...extreme geophysical events greatly exceeding normal human expectations in terms of their magnitude or frequency and causing significant damage to man and his works with possible loss of life." (Heathcote,1979,p.3.). A natural hazard occurs when there is an interaction between a system of human resource management and extreme or rare natural phenomena (Chapman,1994). As McCall, Laming and Scott (1991) argue, strictly speaking there is no hazard unless humans are affected in some way. Yet the line between natural and human-made hazards is a finely drawn one and usually overlapping. Doornkamp ( cited in McCall et al, 1992) argues that many hazards are human induced or at...