This week several of nature’s most deadly attacks have reminded us that occasionally there is a high price for calling Earth our home. It’s an amazing place, if only because it is the only place in the universe we know of at this point where people like us could survive. But we don’t live here without cost.
The earthquake that struck L’Aquila in central Italy has killed at least several hundred people and left tens of thousands homeless. This isn’t the first or worst earthquake Italy has experienced, and it will not be its last.
Like San Francisco and Tokyo, among many others, it is where several tectonic plates are pushing against each other. As they float inexorably in opposite directions, pressure builds up, and earthquakes are what happens when something finally snaps.
Tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquakes are all the result of living on the surface of a dynamic planet. If we didn’t have these deadly eruptions, the surface of Earth would gradually be worn smooth, and water would cover the entire surface. There wouldn’t be any land not covered by water anywhere.
So the price of keeping our world habitable on the most basic level is sometimes lethal to hundreds of thousands of people in just a few minutes, the product of an unexpected gigantic upheaval from the bowels of the earth.