Wednesday, March 16, 2011

you know you're in trouble...

story off reuters, 'California "big one" expected to pale next to Japan quake' makes a rather startling assertion. referring to a 2008 forcast prepared by the US geological survey, "When the seismic "big one" hits California, scientists doubt it will be quite as powerful as the earthquake that struck Japan last week although it could do plenty of damage."

consider, if you will, that the fukashima nuclear facilities were designed to withstand a 7.9 magnitude quake -- considered the most severe likely to strike the region. the USGS survey predicts a quake of 7.5 or greater -- which the story points out is "many times less powerful" than last week's quake.

nice try, guys. but let's preface all this with the admission that we don't have the ability to predict earthquakes. not when they occur, or how intense they might be. at best, we can be reasonably certain that in certain geologically unstable areas, a serious earthquake at some point is inevitable.

beyond that, we're no longer dealing in precision or certitude.

in case you're wondering, "USGS studies put the probability of California being hit by a quake measuring 7.5 or more in the next 30 years at 46 percent," and the damage predictions include 2,000 deaths, 50,000 injured and 250,000 homeless. it will probably knock down all kinds of shit in the process -- buildings, bridges, infrastructure -- the works. the tab: $200 billion.

if you can wrap your head around that, then you know that it's kind of misleading to say that this would be less serious in any respect -- except for the nuclear disaster.

and while that's still unfolding, there's no point in even offering any damage assessments. it's bad, and it's going to get a lot worse.

on the other hand, we've become so dependent on all the conveniences, and so soft and helpless, even minimal disruptions will weigh more heavily on us than other people whose circumstances are much more modest. we're exceptionally profligate in our use of resources, and that leaves us especially vulnerable when things really go badly.

we may not be hit as hard, but we'll probably take it a whole lot worse.

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