[Pssst – this Ring of Fire!]

As someone from an earthquake prone area (the house I grew up in is about 100 yards off the Hayward Fault and has almost no right angles anymore) I have always been fascinated by earthquakes. Maybe even a little obsessed. [Btw – favourite book on the subject: A Dangerous Place by Marc Reisner ] But not just by the geological phenomenon, by the social phenomena associated with it as well, like the weird California “denialism” that leads us to laugh about earthquakes that will someday (it’s a “when” not an “if” with these things) totally f*&k our s!$t up (though not as bad as Haiti).

Everytime these things happen, like with the tsunami a few years back, I think there’s a little voice in the heads of many Californians secretly whispering “soon, it will be our turn.” And somehow, morbidly, I think “damn, I hope I’m there to see it.” …..But maybe that’s just me.

Actually, now that California’s going down the tubes, it makes my thinking on earthquakes much darker. Imagine how much worse our own Big One could be, with the Gobernator slashing all sorts of social protections, and Cali nearly a “failed state“. Shudder.

Because really, money is a big factor in how bad an earthquake could be. Remember the big quake in California in 1989? It was a 7.0 or 7.1, just like the Haitian quake. 63 people died. 63. That’s amazing.

So the tragedy in Haiti isn’t really the quake. It’s the shameful (for all of us, her neighbours) state the country has been in for some 200 years.

Which is why David Rothkopf’s post in Foreign Policy is right on:

The disaster in Haiti did not occur yesterday.

While the nation’s latest tragedy was triggered by yesterday’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake, its real roots were not 10 kilometers beneath the earth’s surface as seismologists concluded. Rather, they were in two centuries of misfortune that have plagued the country and most heart-breakingly in the particular failures of the international community and the country’s leaders to help the country during the most recent decade and half — a period when real hope backed with real money seemed to bloom and then, just as quickly, fade.

The reason this quake has been so destructive is because of the country’s poverty, much more than its position relative to a fault line.

Rothkopf outlines the failures to get Haiti on its feet – particularly the disappointment at the reinstatement of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1994, but sums it up here – rip us a new one David!

Thousands are dead, perhaps many times that. But it is not solely or even, I would argue, primarily due to an act of God. It is due to the callous neglect of neighbors who were content to live with one of the world’s poorest countries at the doorstep of the world’s richest. (And, it must be said, to the failures of local political leaders.)  It is due to political calculations that resulted in winding down U.S. efforts there and our choice to spend in a couple of weeks in Iraq or Afghanistan what it would have taken to lift this needy neighbor up … and save countless lives. It is due to the fact that too much of what we spend is for relief rather than for preparedness. In any event, it seems clear that if you leave a ramshackle city of 2 million on a fault line while the knowledge and the means to shore it up exist at your disposal and you are complicit in whatever follows.

Ummm. Yeah. What he said.

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