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Natural Hazards and Physical Environments

            Firstly the definition of a natural hazard is "those elements of the physical environment, harmful to man and caused by forces extraneous to him" (Burton et al 1978, cited by www.oas.org). These can include hazards ranging from droughts to floods, from earthquakes to volcanoes. This essay will examine whether these natural hazards are caused by the physical environment (out of our control) or whether they are caused by society's decisions. The physical environment is a clear reason why natural hazards take place. With earthquakes as an example, major pressure releases at plate boundary fault lines caused by plate movement. As this happens deep within the mantle it can be argued that this is out of our control and therefore caused by the physical environment as nothing we can do could prevent it, especially as the plate movement is caused by convection currents. Plate movement is also the cause for the natural hazard-volcanoes where destructive and constructive plate boundaries cause eruptions which kill many and cause vast destruction. The physical environment is also seen as a cause of natural hazards in relation to floods. For example physical factors that can increase flood severity include the gradient e.g. steep slopes, type of rock e.g. impermeable, hard rock and primarily excessive or intensive rain over a short time. All of which were not decided by society and are the physical environment and its natural processes. .
             However, there is mounting evidence that new human technologies and decisions by society are causing changes to the physical environment resulting in natural hazards. One of these new technologies is fracking which is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside (BBC, 2013). It is controversial due to the disposal of the wastewater into wells underground, as pumping water into faults will increase pressure which will be released as an earthquake.

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