Nukes, plugs and walls: Humanity’s harebrained schemes for combating natural disastersBreaking News
tags: environmental history, Weather, hurricanes, natural disasters
For many scientists — or even casual observers of weather — President Trump’s reported suggestion (which he has denied making) that the U.S. government fight off hurricanes by, simply, dropping bombs on them was evidence of that. If true, it was foolhardy, sure, but it was also just the latest example of our species’ arrogant approach to the challenges of its surrounding environment.
Whether we’re considering corking the top of an erupting volcano, erecting a wall to guard against a tornado or pumping water into a fault line to stop an earthquake, humanity’s solutions are often shortsighted and sloppy.
“All of these ideas sound like they took their cues from the physics of a Looney Tunes cartoon,” said Peter Brannen, a science writer and author of “The Ends of the World,” a book about Earth’s mass extinctions. “And things don’t tend to work out well for the characters in those cartoons.”
“I think it’s human nature to be insufficiently humble in the face of the natural world, about its complexity and its ability to overwhelm,” he added. “We should be humbled before we embark on any crazy, harebrained schemes like nuking a hurricane.”
That urge to recklessly problem solve is the extension of another human reaction to disaster, said Lucy Jones, a leading seismologist, veteran of the U.S. Geological Survey and author of “The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us.”
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