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The Warning Effects of Catastrophe Narratives Essay


Many people wonder whether or not catastrophe narratives are useful in alerting the public to the possibility of environmental destructions. An effective presentation has a number of characteristics.

Such narratives are usually wrought with grim visualizations in relation to the future of humanity. They depict the consequences of natural calamity on human beings. They are perpetual given the fact that perceptions of various natural hazards as catastrophes are part of humanity.

Reports regarding natural disasters are rife in modern society. Such narratives take different forms. For instance, such issues as economic collapse and depression, as well as global warming, are common features in these depictions. Other issues, such as nuclear war, massive tsunamis, and a myriad of natural disasters paint present day and future catastrophes.

Textual sources going back as early as the nineteenth century seek to present catastrophic events through extensive utilization of stylistic and other language elements. For instance, religious writings are very effective in the illustration of wars and other disastrous events.

Consequently, it appears that catastrophic narratives inform the public about the likelihood of environmental destructions in the future. For instance, some of these presentations highlight environmental destruction through locust invasions. In other instances, floods are used to depict the wrath of God. They are also used to illustrate critical and extensive climatic changes.

In this paper, the author analyzes the usefulness of catastrophe narratives as far as alerting the public about the possibilities of environmental destructions is concerned. The various features of a particularly effective narrative are highlighted. Two texts and two movies are used in this analysis.

The Warning Effects of Disaster Narratives in the Context of Selected Texts


Artificial and artistic hyperbolism is common in various disaster texts, especially those found in humanistic literature. One can only approximate the actual level of imagination and composition in these narratives. The situation is especially true if the events described in the presentations are comparable to actual happenings in the contemporary world (Rich 21).

In addition, most of these accounts communicate some form of warning to the target audience. In most cases, a high percentage of these catastrophe narratives paint grim images of possible and impending environmental disasters. The events depicted in the texts take into account the sensitive nature of the environment.

Basically, disaster illustrations are either fictional or factual. To this end, they are similar to other forms of narratives in the literary world. However, unlike in conventional accounts, events in catastrophe narratives leave major mental imprints on readers or film watchers (Rich 21).

There are similarities between factual and fictional narratives. One of these parallels entails the function of the text. The peculiar relationship between time and history is usually put under the limelight. The development leaves the target audience wondering about the actual occurrence of these events.

“Odds against Tomorrow” as a Catastrophe Narrative

The book is an example of a disaster text. It encourages the reader to imagine about the near future (Rich 45). The story revolves around Mitchell Zuckor. The major character is a Wall Street quantitative analyst (Rich 21).

Zuckor is gifted with the unique ability of determining the likelihoods of worst-case-scenarios and catastrophic events befalling the New York City. He achieves this through the use of mathematical calculations. Some of the catastrophic events predicted include nuclear wars, earthquakes, human pandemics, tsunamis, financial meltdowns, and terrorist attacks (Rich 21).

An outstanding characteristic that makes catastrophe narratives particularly effective in predicting future occurrences is timeliness. The feature is common in this novel. Although the narrative is a fiction, recent events in the world make the story a chilling account of the future. For example, one of the predictions made by Mitchell Zuckor is fulfilled when the city is brought down by a hurricane (Rich 78).

The fictional typhoon has some similarities to the disastrous Hurricane Sandy. As such, in spite of the fact that Zuckor’s calculations are grounded on paranoia, it is obvious that they are enhanced by reality. Consequently, the narrative is effective in relation to the communication of environmental destructions. “Odds against Tomorrow” emphasizes the narrow line between order and chaos in the contemporary society.

A Catastrophic “The Day after Tomorrow”

Just like “Odds against Tomorrow”, this movie revolves around the premise of an imminent environmental disaster. The theme, together with the sensitivity and timeliness of the situation, makes the narrative an effective means of alerting members of the public (The Day after Tomorrow).

In essence, “The Day After Tomorrow” is a disaster movie. It depicts a situation where global warming triggers an ice age by altering ocean currents. A maverick Paleoclimatologist professor, Jack Hall, has developed a computer model that can predict the events. The simulation is used to warn the public about the impending catastrophe (The Day after Tomorrow).

The film takes the artistic liberty of addressing relevant and significant present day events that may result in environmental destruction (The Day after Tomorrow). The effectiveness of the catastrophe narrative stems from the fact that the film is based on both factual and fictitious accounts.

Some of the illustrations appearing in the background to the film are both accurate and convincing. However, the depictions are likely to mislead viewers who lack a deep understanding of climate changes.

According to the film, human beings are increasingly facilitating changes in the global climate. A number of human activities are posing grave danger to the environment. Consequently, the risks of unforeseen and abrupt environmental changes increase.

There are disagreements between experts with regards to the prevailing climatic system. Ultimately, the film is an effective reminder of environmental destructions. It elicits interesting discussions on the future of humanity.

Viewing Natural Disasters “Through the Arc of the Rainforest”

The novel is a mixture of genres. However, messages about future catastrophes in relation to environmental degradation are discernible in the narrative. The events in the story unfold in Brazil. They revolve around the primary character, Kazumasa Ishimaru (Yamashita 17).

Yamashita adopts a very unique style in writing the novel (19). The approach enhances the ability of the text to warn the public about future catastrophes. Such features include ‘emplotment’ and characterization.

Some of the major themes addressed in “Through the Arc of the Rainforest” include migration, globalization, and economic imperialism. Other subjects entail environmental exploitation, techno-determinism, trans-nationalism, and socio-economic inequity.

The characters in the novel are drawn from different communities. They originate from Brazil, Japan, and the United States (Yamashita 40). Discovery of the black substance, Matacao, leads to the convergence of people from various parts of the world. The fortune seekers meet at a place in the Brazilian rainforest (Yamashita 41).

Subsequent activities in the forest lead to its destruction. The fate of the characters in the novel is tied to the rainforest. The story highlights the issue of environmental degradation by developing characters that are common in every day contemporary society.

The personalities reflect the existence of individuals in modern communities. Over-exploitation of the natural environment is depicted as having devastating outcomes for humanity. If the surrounding suffers, people are bound to be affected negatively in the long run. The readers can see themselves in the characters used in the story.

Disaster in “Trouble the Water”

“Trouble the Water” is a documentary film reflecting the struggles of a couple trying to survive a troubled past. In addition, the movie highlights, among others, occurrences in an abandoned community and a ‘failed’ levee (Trouble the Water). In the film, viewers are taken through the destructions caused by Hurricane Katrina. The story is told from the perspective of an aspiring rap artiste, Rivers Kimberly Roberts.

Like the other catastrophe narratives reviewed in this paper, “Trouble the Water” warns the public about the issue of environmental destruction brought about by hurricanes. The point of view adopted by the characters is especially effective in communicating this message.

For instance, Rivers turns to her faith when the waters appear to be destroying the community (Trouble the Water). Eventually, everybody seems to cling on ‘survival’ and hope. Ultimately, viewers are convinced that prevention of such situations is better than trying to deal with them when they occur.


Catastrophe narratives are efficient means of creating public awareness in relation to environmental destruction. The styles adopted by the various authors in delivering these messages, especially timeliness, enhance their effectiveness. The themes covered also inform the impacts these narratives have on the audience.

Works Cited

Rich, Nathaniel. Odds against Tomorrow, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013. Print.

The Day after Tomorrow. Ex. Prod. Roland Emmerich. Toronto and Montreal, Canada: Centropolis Entertainment. 2004. DVD.

Trouble the Water. Ex. Prods. Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. Alexandria, Louisiana, USA: Elsewhere Films. 2008. DVD.

Yamashita, Karen. Through the Arc of the Rain Forest. 3rd ed. 1990. Los Angeles, California: Coffee House Press. Print.

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