History has shown that the Earth’s surface can change, and just as fast, as our lives can change with it. In an instant our planet can be violent and out of control creating and destroying life and land. There is not a single day that the earth goes silently without effecting lives in a positive or negative way. The rich ash from a volcano can produce mass crops for a farmer, but in most cases it leads to mass clean up for an entire culture. Humankind has a natural instinct to adapt to our environment, and that’s just what we do in every case where Earth has left us no choice. From the tiny island of Montserrat, to the many islands of Hawaii, and a little closer to home, (about six miles north of my back door) are several fault lines where a major earthquake could occur at any time.
The 11,000 or so residents of Montserrat, a tiny island in the Caribbean, had an unwelcome visit from a mountain of furry that destroyed over one-third of their island. Although over half of the island, including the now non-existent capital, had been evacuated and warned of the volcano, nothing could prepare them for the destruction of their homes and lives. When the volcano had been uncorked it let out mass pyroclastic flows down the side of the volcano and right into their lives. Full of deadly gases, ash, and rocks these flows swept over land that was full of life only months before.
The vivid images of that island and its struggle with the mountain replaced my foggy views the power a volcano has. The action from sixty miles below the surface of the earth can bring together and unite people from sixty or more miles away. People from all over the world have experienced the same furry that the earth can create, whether it was from a volcano, earthquake, tsunami, or any other vicious face the earth can show. The earth has many moods that we need to learn to respect, for they all keep this planet in its ever-changing state, including creation of new and someday habitable land.
Included in this new habitable land, one of our own states, Hawaii, has new land being created everyday. Because of this hot spot on our earth over a million people can call a volcano home. An active shield volcano exists there today burping out lava and constantly pouring it into the ocean. Watching this occur is like seeing the biggest recycling job on earth. The only thing constant about this world is the unpredictable change it goes through.
The foundation of these volcanoes and earthquakes lies in the theory of plate tectonics. Living in Alaska, the home of hundreds of earthquakes a day and five volcanoes in a two hundred mile radius from Anchorage, there is no better example of this theory. Two of the twelve major plates Earth consists of come together to create major cracks in the earth. Our surface is deceiving in that it seems solid, yet like an eggshell that has been cracked it is very fragile. In March of 1964 residents living in Anchorage and in cities as far away as California and Hawaii became all too familiar with the unstable ground and the earthquakes and tsunami’s it is able to produce. But earthquakes aren’t the only things the ground under our feet can cause. Strato volcanoes, such as Mount Spurr, Redoubt, and Augustine, have been known to send ash and rocks flying from its summit too close to home. Now knowing about Anchorage’s land make-up I will think twice about where I might purchase a future home, and the soil liquification land of Turnigan Arm won’t be one of them. Every time we experience one of these forces it leaves us asking, “Is the worst over?”
There is nowhere we can run to in order to escape the wrath of natures furry, for every place on earth is susceptible to its own kind disaster. Far too many of us learn too late how these disasters effect us on an individual level. The importance of geography needs to be reinforced and just as important to everyone as learning how to read and write. Through education and the media geography and should be stressed as a significant tool in our routine lives.
Not understanding geography and having walked into this class thinking I was going to learn and memorize places in the world, I was in for a treat. We have not only learned and become more familiar with places in our world, but we have gone beyond that and have literally learned about it from the inside out.