Natural Forces & Human Disasters

As we have observed in Japan over the past week, natural forces can devastate human populations. Indeed, 74,000 years ago, the eruption of the Toba Supervolcano, on Sumatra, nearly annihilated our species.

Nevertheless, these events, including earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires and other so-called natural disasters have been instumental in shaping our planet. Tectonic forces and climate fluctuations have produced our scenic landscapes and laid the groundwork for the evolution of life. Without the balance of energy that these events insure, we would not be here to witness nature's handiwork.

While these vital natural forces are often disasterous for humans, we have a habit of putting ourselves in harm's way. We build cities on fault lines, along subduction zones, on floodplains, near volcanoes and on barrier islands. Our short life span and relatively brief collective memory lead us to assume that projections of potential disaster are just scientific theories and that our planet is a beautiful, stable platform, created for humans to plunder and enjoy. The tragedy in Japan should clearly put an end to that delusion.