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Five Disasters That Led to Reform

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

March 17, 2011

We all know a single moment can change everything. The things we fear, the way we spend, and the time we value can all change in a second. The question is: What moments are big enough to change the way we operate as a country? The threat of nuclear disaster in Japan may change our conversations about nuclear power, but as Michael Hirsh writes in this week's National Journal magazine, it probably won't provoke Washington to change policy.

We take a look at the disasters—both natural and man-made—that led to real reform.

 

 

September 11, 2001: The creation of The Department of Homeland Security

President George W. Bush announced the creation of the Department of Homeland Security immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941): Entering World War II

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States out of isolationism and onto the side of the allies in World War II. The move changed the outcome of the war and shaped the foreign policy that the United States still maintains today.

Santa Barbara offshore oil spill (startedJanuary 28,1969): The creation of the EPA

A leak of 200,000 gallons of crude oil off the shore of California sparked a high amount of public outry. The EPA was created the following year, responding to the spill and a decade of heightened environmental consciousness. To help alleviate the troubled economy, drilling off of California's coast started again in 2008. 

BP oil spill (started April 22, 2010): Moratorium on offshore drilling

After an explosion at the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon spilled an estimated 5 million barrels of oil from April through July of 2010, Obama placed a moratorium on all offshore drilling. The moratorium was not lifted until October. More regulations requiring congressional approval are still on the table but seem unlikely to pass.

Hurricane Katrina (September 5, 2005): FEMA reform

After Hurricane Katrina exposed weaknesses in the United States' ability to deal with natural disasters, President Bush signed the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act. The act mainly strengthened the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for the "FEMA trailers" that house disaster victims.

 

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