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At odd intervals, I ponder the Cascadian Subduction Zone.
This is a 600-mile-long geological fault in the earth’s fractured crust that lies along the coast of the Pacific Northwest, extending from northern California all the way to Vancouver. The CSZ is a type of fault well-known for causing extraordinarily destructive, 9.0+ megathrust earthquakes. Because the fault lies under a pile of salty H2O, the quake itself will be followed by a huge, catastrophic tsunami. In emergency-prep circles, this one-two punch is known as “The Big One” and … oh yeah. It’s both inevitable and overdue.
And, as one after another of the sober documentaries available takes care to remind us, we are not prepared.
Among my friends and relations, there are a number of persons fully (and vocally) persuaded that “we” must be preparing, now, for a different apocalypse, the one “we” caused through anthropogenic climate change. If we are to survive in any recognizable way, we must, they say, completely and quickly transform the entire planet’s economic, political, and cultural systems
The obstacles to the necessary transformation are clear: Standing in the way are the deplorable, conservative Denialists. And, of course, the pet scientists, bought-and-paid-for, of Big Oil. But everyone else, all the smart, kind, compassionate, rational, science-believing people are totes, totes on board.
The Cascadian Subduction Zone earthquake/tsunami is, let’s admit, small beer by comparison with the end of the world: When it comes, it will not wipe out the entire planetary ecosystem. Still, one could argue that the CSZ presents progressives, in particular, with an opportunity to demonstrate wholesale transformation on a smaller scale. Think of it as a kind of dry-run: the Big One as a test case for the Really-Really Big One. The target cities, Portland and Seattle, have long taken pride in being ideal progressive communities: high-tech, education-minded, scientifically literate, environmentally-conscious, and high-status cities people boast of living in.
Even if these cities might be burdened with a few small pockets of deplorable resistance, when it comes to the CSZ, there are no deniers standing in the progressive’s way.
True, there will be no “warning signs” for the Big One, no denial-shaking shockers akin to an unusually hot summer or a melting glacier. Still, anyone willing to peruse a bit of YouTube can see for him/her/xerself just what the catastrophe will look and sound like, because what happened in Indonesia in ’04 and Japan in ’11 was extensively videoed.
But it’s unnecessary, really: Everyone knows. And while there may be parents/MAGA-terrorists yelling at the school board about CRT or gender ideology, no parent objects to the Duck, Cover, and Hold drills held in elementary school classrooms.
Again, these are overwhelmingly progressive-Democrat cities. To a man or woman, then, I’d be willing to bet that all the leaders of Seattle and Portland are Climate Change true believers, who would agree that “we” can and must transform society pretty much in toto. So what exemplary, smaller-scale transformation can they point to? What have Seattle and Portland done to prepare for the merely Big (as opposed to Really, Really Big) One?
Thanks to the example set by Japan, we have a model for the kind of preparation which, while not preventing apocalypse, would result in far fewer deaths and a far swifter recovery. The technology already exists. It’s not complicated.
So why are we still not prepared?
Of course, these cities have done some things. In the past few years, a couple of tsunami towers have been installed in the inundation zone, for example. And there has been talk (don’t know about action) about constructing at least one earthquake-resistant bridge spanning the waterway that separates the low-lying coastal community of Seaside from life-saving access to higher ground. The six existing bridges are expected to fall apart during the quake, but the new one would offer at least one narrow avenue of escape to use in the half-hour window between catastrophic quake and devastating tsunami.
I’ve been following this story for about seven years now, and in that time, I have to say, I have not noticed much improvement. The documentarians continue to intone “we are not ready.” What they don’t say is that, in the last five or ten years, those given direct responsibility for “hardening the target” for this inevitable catastrophe have, instead, been softening up the cities, making them more vulnerable and less resilient.
1) In the name of protecting a miniscule number of black arrestees from largely imaginary uniformed bigots, Portland and Seattle have demonized, defunded, and devastated the ranks of their police departments, thus eliminating whole swathes of trained, experienced first responders — the very helpers citizens must depend upon during and after the cataclysm.
Children — because they are children — are very likely to need to turn to strangers for help in the post-catastrophe environment. The school children of Portland are being trained to duck, cover and hold, but they are also being taught to distrust and dislike the strangers who, by their uniforms, would be most easily identifiable as helpful, capable, and trustworthy.
2) Functional, self-reliant, self-confident citizens who identify with and feel affection for the city in which they live and work naturally form the first line of civil and civilizational defense in any emergency. They will be the skilled pioneers required when rebuilding commences in the aftermath too.
City leaders have accused such citizens of -ism and -phobia, permitted demoralizing, destructive, and expensive riots to go on for months, tolerated the smashing of historical monuments and other shared sites of civic pride, allowed and enabled the takeover of whole city blocks by violent anarchists, allowed the crime rate to rise and encouraged the takeover of thoroughfares, neighborhoods, open lands, and vulnerable downtown areas by the addled, addicted and severely mentally ill.
These progressive leaders are, by their actions, demonstrating that notions of social justice are a far higher priority than preparing for an imminent and expected catastrophe.
When discussions about Climate Change begin, I usually opt out. It’s not my issue, I say. My skepticism about the claims of the Climatistas emerges less from knowledge of the science and more from the behavior of those who claim expertise: They don’t behave like people facing an imminent existential threat.
I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff — the Obamas’ purchase of beachfront property, “activists” jetting off to Davos for yet another carbon-spewing celebrity schmooze fest. Long before push comes to shove — even when it ought to be easy! Progressives can’t bring themselves to sacrifice anything in the name of what is supposed to be an existential crisis. The carbon footprint cannot be reduced by so much as a toenail’s span and, more than this, even their most arcane, boutique ideological obsessions cannot be set aside.
For some reason, an image of the Polish Duma comes to mind: of them meeting in September 1939 to vote for more restrictions on the activities of the Jews. The German Army was literally massing on the doorstep, and Russian troops were moving into position on the Western flank. And yet…
In progressive-land, the cause of the black trans-woman must absolutely and unequivocally be angrily, even violently upheld, at the cost of confusing and alienating people who might otherwise be allies, and whose assistance and expertise (even if accompanied by unexpunged -ism and -phobia) will be required to prevent the apocalypse or ameliorate its effects.
If, that is, the apocalypse is real.
The disconnect between stated belief and behavior is, as I say, what makes me inclined to pooh-pooh the climate change apocalypse.
They don’t really have the “science.” If they did, they wouldn’t make such asses of themselves.
But there it is, that bona fide apocalypse, the Cascadia Subduction Zone and the Big One. It’s real, inevitable, overdue, and unquestioned, an existential threat that looms over a huge area of the northwest coast from Northern California to Vancouver. Its existence isn’t a matter for political debate. There are no deniers. Everyone knows, everyone believes. Everyone agrees that we are not prepared.
And yet … they cannot seem to make this — the Big One — the priority.
Would they do better if Portland and Seattle were conservative cities, run by Republicans? Maybe.
But maybe not?
Still, in this context, the most peculiar feature of these exemplars of progressive governance is that they appear to be busily un-preparing. They are, willfully it seems, actively undermining, impoverishing, weakening their social infrastructure, enabling and perhaps even bringing-into-being persons incapable of surviving or of helping others to survive.
I have an image — tragic, really — of the ground beginning to shake and slide beneath the Birkenstocks and Doc Martens of the denizens of Pioneer Square. The skyscrapers start to sway, the old unreinforced-masonry buildings begin raining bricks and shards of glass down upon those rainbow-haired heads. The schizophrenics in their tents incorporate the nightmare into their hallucinations, the drug addicts hurriedly inject themselves, but an activist sets down the Molotov cocktail or can of spray paint and reaches for the cell phone. He/she/xhe will dial 9-1-1. Not to ask the dispatcher (if there is one) what is happening, however. The call is just a reflex. He/she/xhe and they/them … everyone really, will already know. It will be too late.Published in