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The disastrous effects of natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes are often called “Acts of God.”' Challenging that view, this work depicts natural hazards as extreme events in nature that are made even more dangerous by the acts or the neglect of people. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the toll on society resulting from such environmental episodes has changed significantly in several ways—while fatalities from major events have decreased, the number of reported events causing 100 or more deaths, as well as the extent of property damage, has risen steadily. Providing a framework for examining these trends, this volume offers an understanding of how people around the world deal with fluctuations in the local natural systems of air, water, and terrain.