`[A] thoughtful account of four famous episodes of natural disaster . . . Each horrendous event stimulated yet another step in the systematic attempts to understand why such things happened, and how they might be confronted. What emerges most powerfully from this beautifully written, richly detailed and brilliantly judged book, however, is how much we so often choose not to learn from such events.'
`Hamblyn's book is continuously alert to the narrative potential in these earth-shattering episodes . . . We cannot hold back the tectonic plates or stem the lava flow, but de Pombal and Franklin still have much to teach us when it comes to preparing for the next catastrophe. The event itself, as Hamblyn points out, is rarely as disastrous as the decision we make before or after it happens.'
Blending history, science and eye-witness accounts, and arranged in chapters corresponding to the four elements (earth, air, fire and water), Terra explores the relationship between the planet and the humans who inhabit its surfaces. Through four case histories -- the Lisbon earthquake of 1755; the weather-panics of the summer of 1783; the eruption of Krakatau in 1883; and the Hilo tsunami of 1946 -- Hamblyn reminds us of the earth's unimaginable force and describes what happens when that force is unleashed, both in terms of the immediate human consequences and the longer term economic and scientific implications. Serving, ultimately, as a stark and incontrovertible reminder of our vulnerability when the earth 'goes wrong', Terra also asks why we don't seem fully able to learn from the catastrophes, mistakes and responses of the past. Praise for Richard Hamblyn's previous book, The Invention of Clouds: 'An elegantly written and richly diverting thesis of unusual interdisciplinary facility' Guardian 'A book that accomplishes that rare feat of changing the reader's perception of the world' Economist