Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wake Up Call - Earthquake At 4:14 A.M.

~A Mild 4.0 - This Time~
Click on map to enlarge
All maps in this post are courtesy of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
I added some of the text to personalize the information.
Peggy and I were jolted awake by a shaking rattling house at 4:14 this morning.
It was a relatively mild quake but it served, once again, to remind us of where we live and what we can expect from the geology of our locale.
As life-long residents of Southern California, and most particularly, because we've always lived on, or at the edges of, California's Transverse Range and the infamous San Andreas Fault , we're both well experienced with earthquakes.
The above map shows significant earthquakes in Southern California over the 25 year period between 1970 and 1995. I have added the numbers 1 through 4 to the map to show where I've lived my life, in close proximity to the most frequent and strongest quakes. Peggy has lived her life in the same places, except that she was born in the San Fernando Valley, where we grew up within a few miles of each other.
Todays little temblor (shown on the USGS shake map below) was a polite wake up call for us to make sure we're as prepared as possible for the impending disaster somewhere ahead of us.
In the last map of this post I've highlighted an oval which shows a 100+ mile section of the San Andreas Fault that is way overdue for a major quake, and, where we live in relationship to the fault.
It's not a matter of if, but when.
You can read a related National Geographic News article, by clicking here, which explains the known history of this segment of our infamous fault, and what we might expect in the very near future.
This isn't lunatic fringe doomsday prophesy, it's the factual reality of the geology of places like this, which straddle the edges of tectonic plates.

Today's Mild Temblor

The closer you are to the red areas on the above map, the more frequently you can expect earthquakes to occur.

Click on the above map to see the highlighted overdue section of the San Andreas Fault, which could very well bring us the next Big One, if the, also overdue Hayward Fault, in Northern California, doesn't beat us to it (again, you can see a related National Geographic News article by clicking here).

Fires! Floods! Earthquakes!

Why would anyone, in their right mind, want to live in the crowded, congested, expensive, smoggy, crime-ridden sprawl of Southern California when they also know, for certain, that some catastrophic disaster always lies just ahead?

Well, I can't speak for the millions of people who came here from somewhere else, for the climate, the scenery, a job, or to make it big in Hollyweird, whatever. In fact, it wouldn't break my heart if they all went home.

Because...

For me, it's simply about Place!

And, regardless of those who would question whether I ever had a right mind to be in, I'm going to explain why place is important to me anyway.

I was born here 62 years ago, at the west end of this gorgeous range of transverse mountains. And, if overdevelopment, sprawl, pollution, squalor, and outrageous prices hadn't driven me off, I'd still be living with the fires, floods, and earthquakes of Santa Monica, Reseda, or Topanga Canyon.

But somewhere along my journey I realized that we can't keep trashing the places we call home, and then just move on, because, as we should understand by now, we're about to run ourselves completely off the planet.

So, instead of invading someone elses part of the world (maybe even yours), I'm hanging on here, at the easternmost end of my home on the Range, where I can still afford to live, where I'm familiar, and where I'm surrounded by the relatively unspoiled beauty of Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains.

A few minutes walk from our dwelling, in any direction, takes me home to the nature of my place.

Fires, floods, and earthquakes define Southern California every bit as much as our beaches, mountains, and deserts.


They're the interacting forces of nature, which together, created the once gorgeous wide-open freedom of this place we call home.

Plate tectonics built these mountains and coastlines, while floods carved the canyons and filled the valleys with rich fertile soil, and wildfires groomed the dense forests and chaparral, allowing magnificently diverse gardens of botanical inventions to evolve into existence, along with a corresponding abundance of animal species.

The Transverse Range of Southern California is my home, I love and respect this place deeply. What is good for the nature of these mountains is also good for me.

So, naturally, I would also have a great respect for wildfires, floods, and earthquakes, the most fundamental building blocks of my place.

It's not my goal in life to control the forces of nature, it's my goal to try and learn to live in harmony with them.

Our small cabin is a sturdy wood frame structure which came through the 7.3 magnitude Landers Earthquake (July, 21, 1992 - 4:57 A.M.), and the 6.4 Big Bear Quake a few hours later, relatively unscathed.

Most everything inside the house was damaged or broken from the severe shaking, yet aside from a hairline crack in the foundation, and some slightly tweaked kitchen cabinets, the structure is still sound.

That doesn't mean the place will make it through the next shaker, especially if it's an 8+ magnitude 'mother of all quakes' along the San Andreas Fault some twenty miles from here.

And, a wood frame house doesn't seem the ideal structure to inhabit in a fire prone alpine forest either, does it?

We're also in a bit of a flood plain and have twice experienced our home becoming and island in two-foot deep floodwaters.

Fortunately the builder was aware of that problem and built our place nearly 3 feet above ground but some of the neighbors aren't so lucky.

Still, the unpredictable and extreme weather predicted as part of global warming & climate change could bring us heavier rains than we've ever known before.

If this house is eventually destoyed by fire, flood, or quake, and I live through it, maybe I can construct a dwelling more compatible with the forces of nature (or go back and reclaim my cave in the Santa Monica Mountains).

Architect Nader Khalili, of the Cal-Earth Institue in nearby Hesperia, has had the plans for this environmentally friendly earth home (click here) approved by the County Of San Bernardino.

The house was structurally tested and proved to be very earthquake and fire resistant, and, if thoughtfully situated would withstand floods too.

A wood frame home in a forest makes about as much sense as mobile home parks in the hurricane ravaged gulf coast states, or in tornado alley, or as skyscrapers, freeways and bridges do in earthquake country.

Nature can accomodate us quite sufficiently if only we would live in accordance with her counsel, or even with plain old common sense.

Any species long term survival is all about how they adapt to the opportunities, and the limitations, of the places they inhabit. Humans have a relatively brief history, as species go, yet we have already forgotten how to live, in, and of, our places. We now live upon, and separate from them.

I believe our relationship with our place should be an open reciprocal exchange, like a good marriage. Instead, we conquer the nature of our places, subduing them, like an abusive spouse dominates a potential partner. And when our places become stifled and debased by our control, we covet the wild, free, beauty we see elsewhere, and move along to consume new horizons which soon resemble what we left behind.

In our relentless quest for power, control, and omnipotence, we have essentially divorced ourselves from nature and the ability to love our places for what they are. We mold and form those places to be subservient, something nature's not capable of being.

But the lessons of our time tell us with blunt urgent clarity that we cannot continue living out of context with the nature of our place, whether it be Los Angeles, New Orleans, Greensburg Kansas, San Francisco, Big Bear Lake, or Planet Earth.

Today, on so many levels, we humans are confronting the dire consequences of trying to subjugate nature.

The immediate reality of a grossly overpopulated world, addicted to an economic system that demands growth in the face of rapidly dwindling resources, and the now perpetual wars being waged to gain control of those resources, is sobering and scary.

"Go Forth And Multiply" worked OK, I suppose, until we overshot the carrying capacity of our whole blessed biosphere!

We are now face to face with the man-made calamities of global warming, ozone depletion, climate change, rising sea levels, depleted fisheries, mass extinctions, peak oil and a subsequent economic collapse, as well as nature's relatively benign fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanism, hurricanes & tsunamis. And none of this is lunatic fringe doomsday prophecy either, it's here now, whether we like it or not.

We've been like the Mr. Magoo of cultures as our myopic clumsy civilization bumbled its way into a self-made disaster which threatens the entire globe.

Whereas, throughout human history, extreme events in the natural geology, or weather, of any given place typically affected only those areas. Places where more attuned beings, living with an accumulated, respectful, historical knowledge of their places, might avoid the worst aspects of predictable natural events (like the Sea Gypsies of Surin Island did during the 2004 Indonesian tsunami).

So, the very hard realities of humankind in this Twenty-First Century A.D., and our dismal failure in adapting to our ecosystem, should be our true Wake Up Call. Nature will regenerate much of what we've destroyed (sometimes by fire, flood, and earthquake), and create countless new life forms too. Mother Nature is generous and will even include some of us in the future if we will only cooperate.

A big part of my earthquake survival kit (or should I say, my generic, one-fits-all, disaster kit?) is my awareness of the inevitability of it all. I am mentally prepared for it and will not be disoriented or confused as to how such events could happen. And that applies equally to the ecological and economic cataclysms now unfolding all around us.

In the very near future the unwieldy materialistic lives we now know will have ceased to exist. For much of my life I've seen this coming and I fully understand why we're on the verge of societal collapse. So, if I actually live to see the worst of it, at least I won't be stumbling around in a dumbfounded state wondering how it happened, or why.

I realize the dizzying momentum of all this is overwhelming to many people, but our collective lack of will to change course still pisses me off!

It's not something we want to envision, but young people, alive right now, are going to witness the human population of Earth decline, substantially, to something resembling sustainable numbers.

That is a prediction based on a lifetime of open-minded witness to the verifiable down-to-earth facts of the realities we live with, not on some end-times religious dogma.

I'm not predicting the end of the world, just the decline of the human species.

And, whether you think this prediction qualifies me as a fringe lunatic doomsday prophet or not, history will corroborate the accuracy of this disturbing observation, if anyone's left to record it.

And, when my time comes, whether I succumb to old age, disease, or die as the result of one of these disasters---either natural or man-made---I hope to be right here where I belong, at home, in Southern California, the place I know and love.

In the meantime you will find me, for a good part of each day, outside, walking, and worshiping what's left of the lost paradise that once graced the west coast of Turtle Island.

postscript-

This post is now complete. My personal experiences with Southern California disasters, which I was going to insert here, will now be a future post.

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12 Comments:

Blogger David said...

merry Christmas Jim and Peggy!

11:36 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

...and a warm, cozy, peaceful Solstice to you and your family too, David.

7:54 AM  
Blogger roger said...

about that prediction...i agree.

and about one's place, robin and i are finding that we moved too far from our place when we went to washington. california welcomed us back with a small quake.

may the return of the sun find you well and safe.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

roger-

Welcome Home!

And, may the lengthening days soon turn us, once again, from solemn introspection toward the light-filled thoughts of spring & summer.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous kiwi said...

Happy Christmas to you both and may the New year bring you many blessings.
We had a 6.8 quake on Christmas Eve. A good old rock'n'roll! And a very timely reminder of a Higher Power.

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Kathy in Kentucky said...

Jim - I truly enjoyed your post. I can relate to what you say about why you stay where you are.

When hordes of loud "gangsta" Cadillac SUVs started showing up in nearby Lexington (Ky), and careless builders began sticking McMansions in former hayfields, and it began to take looong minutes to drive through the very tiny downtown section of my small town, and the nearby Bluegrass Army Depot began to seem more and more like a major disaster waiting to happen, I moved.

I hated where I was and I had to come back here. I hate that I have to have an "emergency preparedness" calendar hanging on my wall, but I feel at peace in this place -- with its undulating hills, lonesome train whistles sounding through the night, and folks with soft "twangy" accents. I love the place. I just hope a disaster never happens!

I agree with you that you and Peg are facing an imminent disaster. I hope you are both watched over by the Great Mother and that you, and all your fellow travelers, come out relatively unscathed.

Like you, I am often saddened and alarmed by what we do to the earth. Sigh.
- Kathy in Kentucky

8:15 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Kiwi-

Happy holidays back at you girl, and wow, 6.8 is a major quake, did you have serious damage?

9:10 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

KinKY-

We too realized we can't escape development and sprawl, it's happening everywhere.

So we've chosen to stay and defend the place we love, if, with nothing else but words.

Telling the story of a place helps bring it back to life.

Most people in Southern California have no idea what this place was like 50 years ago.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous kiwi said...

No damage where we live, but quite a bit further up the coast from us. No injuries though thankfully Jim.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Linda Navroth said...

Interesting rumination on the subject.

And oh Lordy--I remember the Landers quake well--I was staying in a cabin up in Idyllwild for the weekend. My friend and I were jockeying for position in the front doorway & I never will forget the sight of the pine trees swaying. Weird. It was quite a wild ride even up there!

I, too, have lived in So Cal all my life & have been through several big quakes: Sylmar, Whittier, Landers, Northridge--gads, I NEVER get used to them. I suppose they are better than tornadoes & hurricanes--but heck, none of it's fun!

--Linda

7:18 PM  
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