Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hope & Recycling

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.


  1. It's all about not forgetting what came before, isn't it?

  2. I came from Suzanne's this morning, having listened to the same story on the radio. We still have little protection against natural disasters. My house was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake; it took us three years in various shelters to finally return to a semblance of normal. New Orleans is still in a shamble. Everywhere in the world there is anxiety and devastation because of natural disasters. We have not come far at all.

  3. I often remind myself that we live on a molten-cored planet in a meteor-ripped solar system within a vast universe filled with unpredictability. We don't control this. At all. Not that I pooh-pooh warning systems--we need all the help we can get.

  4. Great comments! Lakeviewer I am so sorry to hear of your own losses; I can't imagine the tumult that such an experience leaves in its wake. A friend of mine was in Katrina and I also am astounded as the devastation that still exists in communities affected by that hurricane. I do think that as much as we need to try to get systems in place to help keep populations safe, we also need to understand that the planet is alive and unpredictable, just as we are, and we're never as much in control as we imagine we are.

  5. I've never had to worry about earthquakes (thank goodness!), but our FL hurricanes are bad enough.
    I love the thought of a cold war bunker being of valuable use today. Very cool!

  6. This is fascinating. I live in San Diego and would LOVE an early-warning system. Kids in school here are taught duck and cover.