We live on a dynamic, random, and at times violent planet. Human beings have always found it difficult to accept that natural disasters are both inevitable and unpredictable. We want and need to believe that we are in control, and the apparent randomness of Earth’s physical processes makes us very uncomfortable. Our response to this lack of predictability and control often ends up being one of denial, and an unwillingness to be proactive about preparing for natural disasters. Instead, we blithely continue to build our cities in flood plains, on the fertile slopes of volcanoes, along major faults, and in hurricane and tsunami zones, and then are surprised and devastated when we suffer major losses such as those seen in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In spite of our ever-growing knowledge of science and technology, we remain unable to manage and control our unruly planet.
What is it about human nature that causes us to make the choices we do? Why does the scientific understanding of natural disasters not lead to action that could help minimize or even prevent future losses? In her Clark Lecture titled “The Fault Lies Not in Our Stars: Why Natural Disasters Become Human Catastrophes,” Dr. Lucy Jones will explore these questions, and offer ideas about how we might better prepare for and respond to catastrophic natural occurrences, and make our cities and ourselves more resilient.
Jones is the founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, with a mission to foster the understanding and application of scientific information in the creation of more resilient communities. A Research Associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech since 1984, Jones recently completed 33 years of federal service with the U.S. Geological Survey. She holds a Ph.D. in Geophysics from MIT.
Jones is the author of over 100 papers, and the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors for her pioneering work in science and public policy. She has been active in earthquake research for decades, furthering earthquake risk reduction through seismological research and integrated disaster scenarios. She served on the California Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council from 2003 to 2015, and on the California Seismic Safety Commission from 2002 to 2009. She developed the first American major earthquake drill, the Great ShakeOut, which expanded to encompass 43 million participants around the world in 2015.