When a sea vanishes; when a cyclone takes thousands of lives; when a moist tropical forest ignites – we blame the weather. Whether human economic activity is causing more extreme weather conditions is still a matter of scientific uncertainty. What is in no doubt is that bad decisions have amplified human suffering and the economic costs of so-called ‘natural’ disasters. The disappearance of the Aral Sea, the coastal mangroves and the jungle, can be laid at the door of shortsighted and corrupt decision-making. This week’s ‘Earth Report’ shows that it is poor communities worldwide who are the first to suffer from the decisions by the rich and powerful that are anything but sustainable.