This newsletter is a compilation of recent disaster ~things~ that I think are cool, important, or otherwise of interest to people who are intrigued with disaster (broadly defined).
There’s a little something for everyone!
The State of Emergency Management
The state of emergency management is “undergoing a colossal vibe shift”.
The war continues in Ukraine. One headline that made my head spin was “forest fires near Russian-held Chernobyl nuclear plant”. The list of environmental impacts is long including the use of flooding as a defense measure. In Florida, debris from Hurricane Michael helped fuel a wildfire. Tornadoes affected large parts of the southern U.S. including one particularly bad tornado in New Orleans. Finally, it seems the overarching response strategy to COVID in the U.S. is just manifesting it to go way…? Not great, y’all.
The State of Disaster Movies
I’m currently feeling a little smug because Don’t Look Up didn’t win any academy awards and you just know Adam McKay felt he deserved one. I’m also feeling like we need a little low consequence disaster chat right about now so, here’s a list of my list of top five disaster movies.
No. 5 – Greenland
This is my favorite of the big, traditional Hollywood Disaster Movies. I didn’t love it when I first saw it but when I compared it to the others – Geostorm, Don’t Look Up, Deep Impact – it really has the most depth. It still has the spectacle that people seem to love but they also take time for character development in a way the others don’t. There’s an actual story in this movie and I was actually invested in whether the characters lived or died.
No. 4 — MegaFault
This is my favorite Bad Disaster Movie. All you really need to know is that it stars Brittnay Murphy. The science of this movie makes absolutely no sense, the acting is just baffling, and the plot is illogical in 10 different ways. Justin Hartley’s character is just an absolute nightmare. It’s great.
No. 3 — Clueless
Speaking of Brittnay Murphy…
Some of you are going to tell me that the 1995 classic Clueless doesn’t count as a disaster movie and I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. The Pismo Beach disaster is a critical plot point. It’s the impetus for Cher to decide she’s going to do good. I’m hard-pressed to find another movie that devotes this kind of attention to disaster volunteerism and donations. You can read a play-by-play of the scene here.
No. 2 — Crawl
One summer day in 2019 my little sister says to me, “want to go see the new hurricane movie?” I had been unaware there was a new hurricane movie but immediately said yes for obvious reasons. It’s important to understand I had zero context for this movie which meant I spent most of it with my hood pulled up around my head. This is arguably less a disaster movie and more a movie about ALLIGATORS – many, many alligators. Too many alligators.
I was quite unhappy as I left the theater but a few years later I re-watched it and found that once I knew what to expect from the alligators, I actually quite liked it. Crawl addresses all kinds of emergency management issues and is great for starting conversations about common disaster myths like looting. Mostly though I was just so thrilled that the hero was a woman for once. Kaya Scodelario is a total badass in this movie.
No. 1 — Beasts of the Southern Wild
The film is about a community on the coast of Louisiana that lives outside the levee-system. Throughout the movie, the community floods, and residents are forced to navigate decisions (sometimes made by them, and sometimes by others) about staying or leaving. It’s not an easy one to watch. For me, this is the disaster movie that is most based in reality because it is full of heartbreak and horror, not spectacle and romance.
I am still seeking justice for Quvenzhané Wallis who had the academy award for best actress absolutely STOLEN from her!!!
Would love to hear about your favorite disaster movies in the comments.
The Book of The Month
“Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (And The Next)” by Dean Spade
I’ve been waiting to read this book for approximately 17 years. By that I mean I’ve been waiting for someone to write an easy, accessible guide that explains what mutual aid is and how it works for a very long time. When I first started working in these types of groups I was like a fish out of water. I had grown up working with traditional nonprofits so learning how mutual aid groups were run took time. The learning curve, frankly, was steep and it was only through a lot of trial and error that I found my way. If I had just been able to read this little book… ah, well. Now you can!
What I love most about this book is that although it’s addressing issues of mutual aid generally, Spade uses disaster relief as the primary example throughout the entire book. So much so that I’ll be assigning the book in my class next semester.
You can buy the book through the publisher here.
Important Disaster Media Coverage This Month
The emergency management coverage was a bit lite this month! Here are a few good ones:
Florida Legislature can’t agree on bill to increase aging condo inspections by Mary Ellen Klas for Tampa Bay Times
Report finds ‘significant gaps’ in DHS’ ability to detect extremism in its ranks by Geneva Sands CNN
A recipe for climate disaster by Kendra Pierre-Louis for The Atlantic
This school wasn’t built for the new climate reality. Yours may not be either by Anya Kamenetz for NPR.
U.S. tsunami warning system needs major overhaul, report says by Diana Leonard in The Washington Post
FEMA is giving homeowners money to prepare for floods -- or move away by Zoya Teirstein for Grist
Dozens of men got sick during a secret training exercise at a nuclear site in 1991. They’re still fighting for answers by Zahra Hirji for Buzzfeed
Rebuild or leave? In a flood-prone Tennessee town, one family must decide by Damon Mitchell for NPR
Feds say Texas discriminated against communities of color when it denied Houston flood aid by Andrew Zhang and Joshua Fechter for The Texas Tribune
The End Bits
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Great list. Thanks. Pls don't overlook the childishly absurd Sharknado movies. They are kind of an exercise stretching lesson for serious movies.