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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/20/09

Are we prepared when it comes to earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and tornadoes?

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Message Mary MacElveen
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In any piece I write, fear is the last thing I want to convey to my readers.  I will leave that for others.  However, I do write of items to think about, so that you who do read them will hopefully file them away in the back of your mind to ponder on, and not the round-file.

Our government in the recent months was dealt a hand which no poker player would like to face and that was to pay up to their opponent, namely Wall Street.  Those opponents even used that poker money (bailout funds) to pay executive bonuses. The government has also spent a trillion dollars and still climbing on these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Who knows when our military footprint will end in that region.


Lately, even as I write of political matters, my focus has been on natural disasters; earthquakes and volcanoes to be specific.  In previous pieces, I castigated Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana for thinking that the monitoring of volcanoes as a waste of taxpayer dollars.  He deserves it since his state suffered at the hands of Hurricane Katrina.


My first preamble to this piece is a quote made by Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (former Chief of Staff to the former Secretary of State Colin Powell) who once said of the “ineptitude” of the US government: “If something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious.  Something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major city or a pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence.” He opined this as he was interviewed on CNN's "Late Edition" on November 20th, 2005.


I noticed that he left out natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and tornadoes.  Still, keep them in the back of your mind since we are still cleaning up after Katrina and Gustav which took out Galveston, Texas.  No one speaks of that disaster.


Getting back to earthquakes, according to Earthweek, back in April, Italy suffered a 6.2 magnitude quake killing 291 people.  This quake did have many powerful aftershocks.  Back in 1980, Italy suffered another quake which registered a 6.9 magnitude on the Richter scale killing 2,700 people.


While we may think that the earthquake which hit the Los Angeles area two days ago as being minor since its magnitude measured 4.7 on the Richter scale and only causing minor damage, Ken Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey stated in an AP article: "Anytime you have a fault running through a densely populated urban area, it's on the watch list," The same article also allayed readers fears by reminding them it was in no way as disastrous as the Northridge earthquake which took place in 1994 which measured a 6.7.  Still, what Hudnut said should be taken seriously.


Some may wish to think of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions as deadly foes, I would like to remind all, it is just the Earth doing what comes naturally.  How we prepare is a different story.  It is the preparation for them that can save lives.  Do we have the needed funds for this preparation?  That is for our government to answer.  I like many believe we do not as we throw good money after bad.


But, onto another event: Last week, was the one-year anniversary of an earthquake; May 12th to be specific, which rocked the Sichuan province.  In looking at how many lives were lost due to any earthquake or other natural disasters, this quake alone killed 80,000 people.  As we speak of infrastructure in need of repair in this country in reading of this lone quake, I wish to bring forth what was reported, “neglect and poor standards contributed to the deaths.” Meaning buildings where it cites: “In Hanwang, a factory town ruined by the quake, mourners gathered at a mass grave on a nearby hill they said held thousands of victims, including workers and schoolchildren killed when their aged workshops and classrooms collapsed.”

In this country we do have substandard buildings and how many of them can come down due to a minor or major quake?  How many of our bridges and tunnels in need or repair can come crashing down taking with it thousands of people?  Again, that is for our government to address.  I bring this up, not to place fear, but to raise a point.


But, wait, there is more as I speak of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes which directly relates to how we will survive as a country, the world and not just a region.  It also deals with how we fuel our cars as well as some cars now run on bio-fuels which come from corn.  All of that can be wiped away in one single eruption or a series of eruptions, yet no one in Washington, D.C. from my knowledge has raised this point.  They are called super eruptions.


Fueling automobiles aside, in my second preamble as I speak of super-volcanoes, namely Yellowstone Park and other super volcanoes.Stephen Self had this to say and it is as riveting as Wilkerson’s above statement, “An area the size of North America can be devastated, and pronounced deterioration of global climate would be expected for a few years following the eruption," Self said. "They could result in the devastation of world agriculture, severe disruption of food supplies, and mass starvation. These effects could be sufficiently severe to threaten the fabric of civilization." Self is a member of the Geological Society of London.


To calm anyone down who may be shocked and feared in reading that statement, let me say that the last time Yellowstone erupted in a super eruption was 642,000 years ago.  Some have said we are overdue for another one.


What I found amazing of the sheer force of these super volcanoes is this: “Such eruptions would dwarf those of Mount St. Helens, Krakatoa, Pinatubo and anything else going back dozens of millennia.”

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I am a writer who currently writes pieces for my own blog I have been published by, and I was a guest on the Jay Diamond Radio Show on WRKO in Boston and have (more...)
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