This is no freak show, it's an aberration: the reporting of large-scale catastrophic events can have a numbing effect, which not only blinkers our thinking on mitigation but also clouds our view of other disasters waiting to happen.(Viewpoint)

You could say the catastrophic events of the Asian tsunami were a freak of nature, and you'd be right. The smaller scale storms that have battered Britain and flooded many locations in the north could similarly be described as 'freakish'. You could make a persuasive case concerning global warming but the results can still rightly be regarded as 'freakish', unless slurry in your living room is par for the course.

The Environment Agency suggests that it is becoming so for a huge slice of the population and 'freakish' is indeed becoming the norm. Remember Boscastle was a 'freak' occurrence.

There is also an inclination to label these events 'phenomenal'--remarkable, extraordinary, all too unbelievable. Certainly the scale and devastating consequences of the earthquake is hard to fathom, just as three and a half years on 9/11 still seems a grotesque aberration, a stand-alone 'freak' of man's nature. …

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