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After reading these articles by Steinberg and Davis, I no longer want to live in California. At least with hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural calamities, modern technology provides us with at least some warning. A simple Google search confirmed my belief that scientists have yet to develop a warning system for earthquakes. Let’s get on that science.
We have, however, developed ways to reduce the damage caused by earthquakes. Even back in the early 1900s, there were at least some protective measures available for implementation. Following the destructive 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, one would think that the local government would try to make the city as safe as possible.
The reactions from Galveston and San Francisco following their respective disasters are polar opposites. The hurricane shattered Galveston’s ignorant view of safety from devastating storms. As such, the city did something to improve their chances against another possible storm by creating a sea wall and elevating the city. Mazel Tov, the modifications worked quite well fifteen years later. The earthquake in San Francisco, however, entrenched the city’s belief that earthquakes did not cause extensive damage. Instead, the local government focused on the fire as the main source of concern. Local government in San Francisco enacted a “Wind Bracing” ordinance to their building code. As Steinberg points out, this language was probably chosen deliberately to remove any mention of earthquakes. Earthquakes later on showed the ignorance regarding the building codes to be detrimental, especially to tge schools. Both cities were vying for economic dominance in their areas, but Galveston decided to make their city safer to encourage businesses to rebuild. San Francisco sought to sweep the problem under the rug, as Jean, Betsy, and Sherwood all aptly claim, to protect future business relations. This decision was incredibly ignorant, selfish, and irresponsible. Even the slight modifications that the city made to its building code were soon undermined to pursue cheaper building construction.
I think it’s pretty comical how a small earthquake in Canada sparked the recognition of earthquakes by insurance companies. My favorite line in Steinberg’s article relates to the insurance companies: “Thousands of Californians were putting up their own hard-earned money to protect themselves against a risk the business class had once said did not exist.” Furthermore, the Great Depression combined with the movie San Francisco forced California to acknowledge a natural problem with its geography.
Even today, citizens are testing the government’s safety mandates by making the government enforce its stricter and more expensive building codes. Alluding to arguments made by Davis, the climate may be destructive and on the brink of disaster, but the climate is why people move to California. It’s beautiful. Living near the beach carries risks of flood and hurricanes, but people take those risks to enjoy the beauty. Maybe the risk involved with living in these areas contributes to their beauty. To me, the cost of living in paradise should be higher than living in the desert of New Mexico or the plains of Arkansas.