The Atlantic Daily: Fire Insurance Is Feeding a Dangerous Fantasy

There’s one key lesson from two unrelated disasters, thousands of miles apart. Plus: Find joy in the very last pages of a book.

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The “unimaginable” isn’t always actually so. Tragedy, the former Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem writes, befalls us at regular intervals. “Events that threaten human life and safety do not strike at random, nor are they particularly rare,” she writes.

In an excerpt from her forthcoming book, Kayyem focuses on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Just today, a major earthquake off the coast of Fukushima triggered tsunami warnings, though they were later canceled, and Japan says no disruption to the nuclear plants have been detected.

Kayyem argues that we “would be better prepared if we no longer viewed disasters as a surprise moment in time.” Reporting on the impact of climate change on housing, the journalist Emma Marris reaches a similar conclusion: Accepting the inevitability of natural events like earthquakes and fires can help us better set expectations for the future.

  • Risk is inevitable. “Deliberately accepting some risks, and then being prepared when disaster strikes, will serve human societies better than pretending we can achieve perfect safety,” Kayyem argues.
  • Affordable housing is climate adaptation. Marris proposes that the “galaxy-brain solution” to wildfires encroaching on residential areas “might just be to provide lots of affordable housing options in the urban core.”
Members of Congress stand in front of a large screen that shows the president of Ukraine putting his hand over his heart.
J. Scott Applewhite-Pool / Getty

The news in three sentences:

(1) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the United States to do more as his country battles the Russian invasion.

(2) The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in more than three years.

(3) The Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which, if approved by the House, would eliminate the biannual time change caused by daylight savings.

Today’s dispatches:

In Brooklyn, Everywhere, Xochitl Gonzalez fondly remembers Making the Band and the no-pain, no-gain ethos of Gen X.

Molly Jong-Fast devotes this week’s edition of Wait, What? to the overlap among Fox News, Russian propagandists, and right-wing conspiracy theorists.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Learn about and sample the music that’s accompanied the Ukrainian resistance, including a viral song inspired by a piece of military equipment.

A break from the news:

Small pleasures lurk in the back of books: Read Alexandra Horowitz’s ode to the index.