Ensor, Marisa O., ed. The Legacy of Hurricane Mitch: Lessons from Post-Disaster Reconstruction in Honduras. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2009. xv + 240 pages. Cloth, $50.00.
This collection of essays examines the environmental, social, and political situations in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch struck that country in 1998 and how these problems were addressed. The authors of the various essays in this volume do not just touch on the issues that emerged in Honduras after this natural disaster; rather, they look at the actions and events that happened long before the storm and how these factors increased the population's vulnerability, thus setting the stage for the 1998 disaster years in advance.
The essayists examine pre-existing conditions, culture, and lifestyles in an effort to explain how and why the disaster occurred. They then study the role that the Honduran government, NGOs, and charitable organizations played in the recovery of the country. Some examine how the Honduran people helped themselves and their neighbors rather than rely on government assistance. Two prevailing themes can be discerned throughout the book. One is that natural disasters are usually years in the making through unsustainable lifestyles and policies. The other is that reconstruction and disaster mitigation are not simple processes; they are complicated by culture, lifestyle, and politics.
These essays are worthwhile in that they explore the problems arising after Hurricane Mitch in light of unsustainable actions that occurred years earlier. After experiencing Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, this reviewer wonders how many people involved in disaster mitigation for New Orleans have looked at past actions and policies to determine just what went wrong. In this regard, the essay describing one author's personal experience during and after Mitch is the most intriguing to this reviewer. It puts things in perspective when you talk to someone who has gone through a similar disaster. Oftentimes, for outsiders, a disaster is almost a non-reality, a drama played out in the media because they are not affected like the victims, if they are affected at all. Obtaining a better understanding of exactly what the victims experienced can help in the reconstruction and mitigation phases that follow natural disasters because planners would be more attuned to the wants and...