Worst Cases: Terror and Catastrophe in the Popular Imagination: Lee Clarke Review Essay

Worst Cases is an analytical book written in a language that can be read by the average person and not so technical that it can’t be understood. This book gives certain “worst case scenerios” and explains how society may react to these scenarios if they were to happen. Not only does Worst Cases give scenarios of worst cases events, but it also gives real life disasters and how society actually reacted to them as well. This book then talks about how society views disasters through probability.

Lee Clarke discusses how probability can help people live easier, but doesn’t erase the possibility of a disaster occurring from the public’s minds. It then turns to creating these “worst case scenarios” by asking the questions that, in turn, generates possible future disasters and how to prepare for them. Politics in disasters and how and what determines which disasters are allocated relief funds for these events. Worst Cases then talks about the “silver linings” in disaster events for example, the family of a victim on the Titanic, donated $2 million dollars to Harvard University.

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Clarke then says that the sinking of the Titanic was good for Harvard; a silvers lining amidst the Titanic disaster. Finally this book talks about hubris and its win/lose results of our “presumption of mastery. ” The purpose of Worst Cases according to Clarke is his “argument that throughout this book is that we ought to be thinking about worst cases in more prosaic venues than we usually do. ” I feel as though the author got his main point across to the audience not only by explaining disasters, their repercussions, and how society deals with these events.

He explains how we as a society have been able to prepare for disaster events by looking to the past to see what needs to be done to lessen the degree of potential devastation. Lee Clarke really made it a point in his book to make it easily readable for the average person. He didn’t want it to be so technical that it would only be read by professionals, he wants society to be aware and up to speed on what can be done about “worst case events” today and how we have been able to take these past events and learn from them.

There are several instances where the author repeated several stories and main points to the point that it was unnecessary and became almost irritating to read. There were also some sentences that didn’t make sense as well as multiple spelling errors that I encountered. Not only could This book be used by everyday people but I would recommend it. I would especially recommend it to those who are in high risk areas whether it be high risk from humans, such as a Nuclear Power Plant, or through nature, such as a place that has frequent severe weather like hurricane or earthquake prone areas.

It could have some information in it that could make them more aware of their surrounding hazards and make them more prepared. This is also a good read for students studying in fields that are relative to the book. This book would be worth getting as it is interesting especially to those who enjoy learning about possible hazards and how to prevent or lessen their effects if they were to occur.


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