The Big One


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After reading Davis’ piece, I was amazed at how dangerous it is to live in California. Davis argues that not only is California susceptible to devastating hurricanes, but that droughts, fires, and flooding can also wreak havoc. According to Davis, California is a land condemned by Mother Nature. At the heart of his argument is the belief that California is on the verge of “The Big One.” If California were to experience a devastating earthquake or prolonged drought, it would become an uninhabitable wasteland. The effects of this possible disaster—which Davis would believes is likely—would cause unimaginably devastation to California and the entire United States. Massive loss of life coupled with trillions of dollars in damage might spell the end of California. Additionally, the economic effects could be catastrophic considering California’s important role in technology and other industries. The question now seems to be why do people live there and what should be done.

I like Morte’s description of the situation: people are playing a “game of chance.” Residents of California know that the area is dangerous, but assume that they will not be affected. This naiveté seems similar to other disasters that we have studied. We found this embracement of invincibility in the Johnstown Flood, where residents knew that there was a possibility of the dam breaking, but did not believe it would ever. I think this situation is most similar to the Galveston Hurricane. Galveston is situated on an unprotected barrier island that stands in the path of hurricanes, while much of California is situated on a fault line. In both cases, the citizens of these areas willfully ignore the consequences of their actions.

I think this false sense of security reveals something about human nature. We believe strongly in our invincibility, despite a history of losing to Mother Nature. It seems as though we have not learned from the lessons that history has taught us. Despite how foolish our choices can be, I struggle with condemning people that choose to live in disaster-prone areas. I recognize that some people do not have the  choice about where they live. Also, I have never been to California, but I am sure that it is a wonderful place to live. In an ideal situation everyone would be aware of the risk and have the ability to choose to live where they wanted, however, I know this is impossible.