Dangerous World: Natural Disasters, Manmade Catastrophes, and the Future of Human Survival.


362 pages
Contains Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-670-06568-4
DDC 363.34




Reviewed by Melanie St-Onge


In this sweeping history of world catastrophes, Marq De Villiers uses a canny mix of mordant observations and indisputable facts to great effect. Despite the often disconcerting subject matter, which ranges from Palaeolithic earthquakes to modern-day volcanoes, Dangerous World is a fascinating read.


De Villiers proposes that while humans aren't necessarily directly responsible for natural calamities such as floods and hurricanes, our environmentally destructive ways do amplify these disasters. Why make our world even more dangerous by polluting our water and contributing to global warming when we already suffer at the hands of Mother Nature?


According to the author, our trouble doesn't lie in our lack of knowledge but rather with the conflicting interests that prevent governments and companies from acting ethically on the knowledge we do possess. This is true of existing predictive science that could be used to warn populations of incoming catastrophes, such as tsunamis, and of the many sources of renewable energy that are tossed aside in favour of that old stand-by, oil. Our capitalistic system is at odds with our environment. Unfortunately for us, it is quite clear from the countless examples of calamities outlined in this book that Mother Nature is a ruthless mistress with no use for our money.


The great strength of this work is its ability to put things into perspective. Should an asteroid hit our planet, an event that is unlikely but not impossible, the resulting casualties could mean the end of our civilization. With this in mind, everyday concerns tend to seem more trivial. However, our planet is still very much in one piece and while natural catastrophes might periodically throw us off course, De Villiers convincingly reminds us that we must take care of it using the exciting ecological technologies at our fingertips.


De Villiers, Marq., “Dangerous World: Natural Disasters, Manmade Catastrophes, and the Future of Human Survival.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28761.