Within philosophy there has been little discussion of the risks associated with natural events such as earthquakes. The first objective of this paper is to demonstrate why such risks should be the subject of more sustained philosophical interest. We argue that we cannot simply apply to risks associated with natural events those insights and frameworks for moral evaluation developed in the literature considering ordinary risks, technological risks and the risks posed by anthropogenic climate change. The second objective of this paper is to identify and develop a framework for the moral evaluation of the source of the risks associated with natural events, or the actions which sustain and impact such risks. Our discussion concentrates on the ways the construction and modification of built and natural environments can alter the probability of occurrence of natural events and the character and magnitude of the impact that such events have. We then argue for the need to develop a standard of reasonable care for decisions about the built and modified natural environment, which accounts for technical and resource constraints, as well as the place of natural hazard mitigation in public policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-140
Number of pages16
JournalRes Publica
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Engineering
  • Natural disasters
  • Risk
  • Standard of care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Law


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