Question: Is it wise for towns near Mount Shasta to keep growing? What should be done about this situation? (Pg. 179, Natural Disasters, 2nd edition)
Volcanoes are a nuisance and a help mankind. As dramatically demonstrated by the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 1980 and of Pinatubo in June 1991, volcanoes can wreak havoc and devastation in the short term. This devastation is so short term that large populations begin to amass around sizeable volcanoes such as Mount Shasta.
However, it should be emphasized that the short-term hazards posed by volcanoes are balanced by benefits of volcanism and related processes over geologic time. Volcanic materials ultimately break down to form some of the most fertile soils on Earth, cultivation of which fosters and sustains ours and previous populations. People use volcanic products as construction materials, as abrasive and cleaning agents, and as raw materials for many chemical and industrial uses. The internal heat associated with some young volcanic systems has been harnessed to produce geothermal energy. For example, the electrical energy generated from the Geysers geothermal field in northern California can meet the present power consumption of the city of San Francisco.
The challenge to scientists involved with volcano research is to ease the short-term adverse impacts of eruptions, so that society may continue to enjoy the long-term benefits of volcanism.
They must continue to improve the capability for predicting
eruptions and to provide decision makers and the general public with the best possible information on high-risk volcanoes for sound decisions on land-use planning and public safety. Geologists still do not fully understand how volcanoes really work,
but considerable advances have been made in recent decades. An improved understanding of volcanic phenomena provides important clues to the Earth’s past, present, and possibly its future.
As far as what society should do about population growth around volcanoes that
have a potential of erupting on a human time scalethis is still a subject that is much
debated in the educational circles of the world. As a whole, society would rather forget
about the dangers that have a relatively small probability of happening in our lifetime like volcanic eruptions. It is easier for us to think in the short term, about “important” things
such as what kind of car we will be driving in a few months.
Only a small percentage of the population can realize what geologic history can mean to a civilization. The average citizen doesn’t have the time, will, or the strength to educate themselves about the history
of the earth and how it may apply to their situation. As far as whether it is wise to build
mass populations near a volcano, obviously the first answer that comes to mind is of course not. After some close consideration this author might consider this type of building a population control mechanism. Survival of the fittest (and smartest) will strengthen the population, so in a way this might be a good thing.
In conclusion it may not be wise to build a large population near an active volcano, but that does not mean that it is not beneficial.
It is the opinion of the author that this kind of mistake is necessary step towards understanding and remembering the importance of history. Although it is a lesson written in blood the human race will remember these important lessons over a period of repeated mistakes.