If you haven't read Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker article, The Really Big One (formerly titled The Earthquake that Will Devastate Seattle,) about Seattle's impending megathrust earthquake, go ahead and read it: http://nyr.kr/1fpxN1r
Here's the tl;dr: Seattle is screwed.
General reaction from friends and family has fallen into three camps:
--You're going to die!
--That's total horseshit.
For the record, the science behind the article is good. So yes, there's a 10 percent chance of a huge earthquake devastating Seattle and the rest of the Pacific Northwest within the next 10 years.
But every city has some sort of extreme weather. Tornadoes have been ravishing the Midwest for weeks. I would melt in the tropics. Tsunamis, hurricanes, lava.
Then there's health. Each of us has a 1 in 7 chance of Death-by-Cancer, and we have virtually no control over that. A 1 in 5 chance of death from heart disease. (Also, a 1 in 61 chance of dying from pneumonia. I got the good drugs last week and am breathing much better, thanks.)
I don't want to live my life being afraid.
I love Seattle. We moved here from the Midwest via New Zealand, and I couldn't be happier. There's no other way to put it: Seattle is gorgeous.
We have a huge working port, ship yards, and the Chittenden Locks to stoke small people's curious minds (and, you know, mine.) A volcano in the distance. Mountains all around. Beaches and playgrounds and parks for days.
Within walking distance of my house, there's a small intersection from which I can look east to the Cascade Mountains, west to the Olympic Mountains, and south to the Puget Sound. Who needs to choose between mountains and the sea? We have both!
Seattle boasts a lively music scene. And coffee shops. And child-friendly, dog-friendlier businesses. And the REI flagship store.
Within walking distance of my house, I have Secret Garden Books, my great independent book store:
And the Ballard Branch of the amazing Seattle Public Library:
Yeah, it has a "green roof!" Seattle is one of America's greenest cities. We recycle and compost and bike everywhere. We stay out of our cars whenever possible. We're building more greenways, working on better public transportation, and using smart energy.
Seattle's politics are great, too. Like every city, we have our problems, but it's a mostly live-and-let-live city. Socially, Seattle is super liberal. People keep their religion to themselves. I love all of these things.
I'm not saying Seattle is the best [insert accolade here] in the whole world. You might be happier somewhere else.
But when family begged us to come home, all I could think was, "We are home." We're working to ensure our family and our home are prepared for a massive earthquake, but in the mean time, we're living. And happy*.
*Except when I think about Kathryn Schulz's demonstrative earthquake exercise. Here, you can play along at home:
"Take your hands and hold them palms down, middle fingertips touching. Your right hand represents the North American tectonic plate, which bears on its back, among other things, our entire continent, from One World Trade Center to the Space Needle, in Seattle. Your left hand represents an oceanic plate called Juan de Fuca, ninety thousand square miles in size. The place where they meet is the Cascadia subduction zone. Now slide your left hand under your right one. That is what the Juan de Fuca plate is doing: slipping steadily beneath North America. When you try it, your right hand will slide up your left arm, as if you were pushing up your sleeve. That is what North America is not doing. It is stuck, wedged tight against the surface of the other plate.
Without moving your hands, curl your right knuckles up, so that they point toward the ceiling. Under pressure from Juan de Fuca, the stuck edge of North America is bulging upward and compressing eastward, at the rate of, respectively, three to four millimetres and thirty to forty millimetres a year. It can do so for quite some time, because, as continent stuff goes, it is young, made of rock that is still relatively elastic. (Rocks, like us, get stiffer as they age.) But it cannot do so indefinitely. There is a backstop—the craton, that ancient unbudgeable mass at the center of the continent—and, sooner or later, North America will rebound like a spring. If, on that occasion, only the southern part of the Cascadia subduction zone gives way—your first two fingers, say—the magnitude of the resulting quake will be somewhere between 8.0 and 8.6.That’s the big one. If the entire zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2. That’s the very big one.
Flick your right fingers outward, forcefully, so that your hand flattens back down again. When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater. (Watch what your fingertips do when you flatten your hand.) The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable."
I blog rarely, because I'm writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: