Real but difficult to picture • 13 October 2007 • The SnowBlog
Real but difficult to picture
Nothing to do with books, but do you ever find yourself fuzzily recollecting that San Francisco is on a major geological fault? Something stirs up a memory from a textbook or an old documentary and you think to yourself, "Oh yes, that's right. They're due a giant earthquake some day soon, aren't they?" By way of contrast, I've been talking to my builder and various insurance-related people about finally getting the post-flood repairs done on my place. There's not much damage but it's taken a long time to even get the work planned. The guys I talk to have been kept very busy not just because of repair work, but because people in the neighbourhood are spending oodles of cash on preventive measures for 'next time'. Now I can quite see their point, climate change, erratic weather, etc; But is it really likely that we'll have another record flood any time soon and that it will strike this part of the country? Isn't it likely it will be a different weather phenomenon hitting somewhere else? Aren't we just as likely to get a drought next or an extra-cold winter or a little tornado? I'm not convinced that people are prioritising according to the likelihood of a particular disaster, but rather on how easy it is to picture. And floods are easy to picture because the images are still fresh in our minds.
But perhaps having your city destroyed feels far fetched, no matter how scientifically likely it is, when all you see around you is normality. I've been to San Francisco a couple of times and I very much liked the place. The chilly, foggy mornings give it a sense of old world reality that Southern California lacks. The place just seems a lot more established than L.A. which gives the impression that it could all have been built since the Seventies. But unless I've misunderstood the geology of the area, it's going to be knocked flat by a massive earthquake in the next few years.
Now, following Katrina, we know that F.E.M.A. aren't worth a damn these days. And since the I-35W bridge collapse we've learned that bridges, roads and general infrastructure all over the States are in need of considerable renovation. Hold that in your head and it seems a little surreal that people are living on top of a fault line. Perhaps they believe the quake will destroy Palm Springs or San Bernardino instead. Whereas the residents of those cities are betting that S.F. will take the brunt. Or maybe the gamble is that it will never happen at all.
I hope the whole thing isn't a microcosm for how we're going to react to global climate change: do nothing until we can look out of our windows and see the catastrophe with our own eyes.