So, I Was An Optomist…

Loma Prieta Earthquake, 1989

I Just read this report on the expected Big One in Southern California. It sounds like our infrastructure is becoming more vulnerable, not less.

3 thoughts on “So, I Was An Optomist…

  1. I’m a geographer-in-training; I do work with environmentalism, disaster science/planning. With a strong interest in history. One of my degrees is even in geology but honestly, I wasn’t a very good geologist. Much better at this big picture policy & research stuff. Modern infrastructure is stuck in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment and every politician with half a brain is just hoping that they’re not in office when a major disaster strikes. Due to economic and population demands, infrastructure has to be built in a certain way. To comply with environmental laws, that tends more to restrict where things go. So you end up with an infrastructure that is very strong against certain pressures but also agonizingly weak against others. If you want the simplest example of this in action, think about the average commute. How many tens or hundreds of thousands of vehicles transport just the workers to and fro? And we humans did that. The scale of it is stupendous. Now, how do you break this beautiful strong system that when it works is so reliable? You take one distracted idiot who starts a 2-3 car pileup and suddenly you’ve just cost all commuters in the area umpteen amounts of time and cost the economy the productivity of these many many workers the benefits of that labor. One idiot. A century ago? They didn’t have this problem of scale, they didn’t have the concentrated population and economic pressures–these types of things our ancestors would have been very weak at accomplishing–look at American logistics during the Spanish-American War, But *their* systems were strong against the “just one idiot” problem.

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