A story featured on the radio this morning captured my attention. California scientists are working on an early alert system for earthquakes. As someone whose major natural disaster home environment was pretty much limited to blizzards, I've always found earthquakes both exotic and scary.
But my life now brings earthquakes much closer to home. I married a man from San Francisco, who was right in the middle of the '89 earthquake, and my brother lives in Los Angeles. Earthquakes have gone from frightening and far off to something I actually worry about. An early warning system sounds fantastic to me.
What intrigued me about this story, however, wasn't the system itself but where it was being implemented. The scientists were using equipment from a Cold War bunker that tracked seismic activity produced by nuclear detonations in testing that occurred across the globe.
They say the best thing to do in the event of an earthquake is get under a table. During the Cold War students were drilled to 'duck and cover' during a nuclear attack. While the former actually works, the latter was obviously akin to using Swiss cheese for armor.
Still, this radio essay left me hopeful about the human condition. We may not have achieved nuclear disarmament, but we're a lot closer than we were in the age of duck and cover. And if a Cold War bunker can be transformed into a site that saves lives, who knows what other transformations we might be capable of. History is not without its own sweet sense of irony.