From bad to worst

June 30, 2009
By

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People who live in fear of airplane accidents, flu pandemics, and other such disasters are often cast as alarmist or paranoid, despite the painful fruition of their fears in such incidents as the crash of a Yemeni jet this morning into the Indian Ocean (the second major plane crash this month), the lethal explosion last night of a freight train in northern Italy, and the collision last week of two Washington, D.C., Metro trains.
In Worst Cases, Lee Clark confirms that such individuals are more reasonable and prescient than they’re given credit for. Surveying the full range of possible catastrophes that animate and dominate the popular imagination—from toxic spills and terrorism to plane crashes and pandemics—he explores how the ubiquity of worst cases in everyday life has stripped them of some of their ability to shock us. Fear and dread, Clarke argues, have actually become too rare: only when the public has more substantial information and more credible warnings will it take worst cases as seriously as it should. A timely and necessary look into how we think about the unthinkable, Worst Cases is essential reading for anyone attuned to our current climate of threat and fear.

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