The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan a week ago today was horrendous and life-changing. The final death toll is still unknown but certainly tens of thousands and perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people succumbed to the twists and fates that Mother Nature unleashed on them. In this modern age of technology, I'm certain that all of you saw the videos of what happened there and that it could happen anywhere at anytime when tectonic plates shift.
When a tsunami is imminent, everyone knows to run inland and upward, seeking the highest ground possible in order to escape the flood. The Japanese people ran inland but not upward because they're on the flat coastal plain and the mountains were too far away to reach. We saw videos of families on top of cars, and people perched high in trees trying to escape the wrath of the tidal wave that was pushing boats, cars, houses and people along the fatal and destructive path it took.
This part of Japan is at the junction of a web of tectonic plate boundaries that make it perhaps the most vulnerable place on earth for these kinds of events to happen. Even though the Japanese have always been at the forefront of technology and planning, there's nothing anyone can do to prevent these kinds of labor pains that come from Mother Earth and there's no way to predict them either. San Francisco also lies on one of these fault lines and many experts predict they'll be the next ones to feel the wrath since the last great earthquake there was 105 years ago.
There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes and floods throughout recorded history. The difference now is that there are so many more people inhabiting the planet than ever before that when they do occur, they're much more likely to result in loss of life than before and certainly much more likely to gain world wide attention. When the natural shifts of earth occurs, it always brings out the doomsday and end of the world fanatics who believe that our time on the planet is about up. But these natural events have been going on for as long as the earth has been here and will continue for many millenniums to come and they will continue to take many lives and destroy much property in the process because the world's population continues to increase.
In spite of that, people still build in places they shouldn't build because of the beauty of the land. The people who live in the part of Japan that was struck are there mostly because of the beauty of the coastline and the magnificent beaches, just as people along the California coast are. Every year on the West Coast they have wildfires and hundreds of homes are usually destroyed by the fire that doesn't want to stop, even though the people who built there knew the risks. As long as we continue to defy the geological nature of the planet we inhabit, there will always be victims when the earth acts in ways we didn't anticipate or plan for.
In classes at the college, we sometimes talk about teen-agers who have premarital sex without taking any precautions at all and then after it's over, they cross their fingers and toes and hope that nothing bad came of it. We play the same dangerous game with nature when we inhabit those places most likely to erupt in one way or another. We know the risks but we discount them because of the pleasure the place brings to us, until it doesn't anymore.
Maybe Nebraskans are a lot smarter than we're sometimes given credit for, because, except for the occasional tornado, we choose to live on a part of the planet that's mostly benign.
Sometimes the most beautiful places on earth are also the most dangerous and deadly, like some women I've known.