Date and Time
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN
This has already been a shocking century for natural disasters, with many tens of thousands of people killed in earthquakes. Moreover, in the last few decades several devastating earthquakes have apparently targeted population centres in otherwise sparsely inhabited regions. A close examination of this situation reveals that ancient settlements are often located for reasons to do with water supply, access, strategic defence or controlling positions on trade routes, and that these considerations are, in turn often controlled by natural geological phenomena, particularly features of the landscape that are created by earthquakes. What were originally small villages grow into towns, then cities, and now mega-cities with several million people. But their growth has, in general, not been accompanied by any reduction in earthquake hazard. It is this close relation between where people live and earthquakes that leads to the apparent bulls-eye targeting of cities by earthquakes. As a result, we should expect many more disasters this century, some of which will be far worse, in terms of mortality, than those we have already seen. At the same time, earthquakes in the developed world have largely become stories about economic loss, rather than loss of life. An earthquake of moderate-size can kill 40,000 in Iran but only a handful in California. The question of what to do with the huge populations concentrated in earthquake-prone mega-cities of the developing world is one of the most pressing of our time, and has no easy solution.
Please note this is on the third Thursday in the month
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