No matter how natural the disaster is, it is never only natural. The acceptance of urban poverty comes with the acceptance—or at least a blind eye to—buildings that vulnerable to and communicative of “natural” events. Similarly, governmental policies can turn a drought into a widespread famine. After the revelation of the extent of the cover-up of the famine in Ethiopia in 1973 and 1974, Stephen Green, who had written an initial report on the famine for UNICEF, argued that global powers can no longer pretend to understand disasters discretely. As he writes in an afterward to Jack Shepherd’s The Politics of Starvation (1975):
Why should the international community not share, from the outset, the responsibility and burden of dealing with a major disaster situation? Most major disasters are international problems
Green’s words redefine the space of disaster away from an affected location to a world with unevenly distributed vulnerability. The world, in Green’s account, is not dissimilar to a city where, as you have seen here, the poor feel the disproportionate effect of urban fires. What kind of map, then, would you need to understand the global location of disaster?