Environment and Society in a Changing World

Written Assignment 5: Vulnerability Reduction


This assignment  requires you to write  a clear, well-organized paper (500-750 words) which responds to the prompt provided below and demonstrates you have read the material in the modules.

First and foremost, I am grading your comprehension of the course material. To get a good grade, you must show me that you have read and understood the content from the modules we have covered so far.

Second, I am grading for critical thinking and analysis. How well do you form and support your arguments with evidence from the course material or external sources?

Third, I am grading for clean and quality writing. This means your paper should be well-written, thoroughly proofread, answer all parts of the prompt, and cite and format any/all sources correctly (see course Orientation for guidance on the APA style we expect you to use in this class).

Written Assignment Instructions

In this assignment , you will apply  concepts learned in Modules 8 and 9 to analyze the "natural disaster" of wildfires in California. You will need to engage relevant materials from the assigned readings, modules, AND outside sources.  The objective of this assignment is to increase your understanding of the relationship between vulnerability, natural hazards, and disasters, and to help you develop a more complex framework for understanding how natural disasters unfold. 

  • Read the following article on the nature of "natural disasters" and the complexity of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath by Neil Smith:  “There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster”
  • Do some research on the factors causing the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires in California. 
  • You will need to cite at least 3 reputable outside sources that do not include the course modules for this assignment. For help evaluating what constitutes a reputable resource, please consult this guide from the Penn State libraries.

Write a 500-750 word paper that answers the following questions:

  1. What does Smith mean when he states that there is "no such thing as a natural disaster"?
  2. Throughout the past few years, we have witnessed an increase in the occurrence, range, and severity of California wildfires. Using Smith’s reasoning regarding the classification of "natural" disasters as human-made occurrences, analyze the wildfires that have burned in California in recent years and determine the ways in which human (in)action has contributed to the severity of these disasters.
  3. How credible do you find Smith’s arguments? Is there really no such thing as a natural disaster?

You  must engage at least three course concepts  in your paper. Remember, engaging a course concept means defining that concept and explaining how it helps you think about the theme of your paper.  Please bold the concepts you engage in your paper.

Review the grading rubric before completing your assignment.