The earthquake struck again. This time in an area that I know quite well and the place my family calls hometown. Padang, West Sumatra. I guess we know that it was only a matter of time that a large scale quake would rock this part of the island, but then we could never be ready enough for these things. When the temblor comes, we will always react with surprise and we will never be prepared.
As the bodies are being counted, the survivors rescued, the damage assessed, perhaps it’s still too early to ask questions and to gather the lesson. But one thing is clear. We live on very shaky grounds and it’s for us to adapt to this fact and not leave things in the hands of fate or invoke the deities to come to our aid.
Our lives, our buildings, our education, our infrastructure and our mode of travel should take this fact into account. Why is it that some buildings barely shake while others crumble to the ground in the earthquake? Surely it’s time that basic regulations about building constructions were enforced so that when the earth moves these edifices do not become death traps.
Cities built in quake-prone areas should have evacuation procedures built into the system and as part of the curriculum in schools. Buildings with multi-floors should be regularly inspected while all high-rises should be quakeproof for even the most severe temblors.
Perhaps we feel that major disasters are rare occurrence and will not be repeated in a short space of time. This is wrong. It’s time we enlighten ourselves with what is happening around the world and see the pattern. Disasters are happening more and more and within short spaces of time all over the world. I personally believe that global warming is not the cause but an effect of a much bigger planetary phenomenon as opposed to merely the results of our human activities and industrialised world.
Most of the time we are so busy and self-absorbed with our activities and chasing our version of success and achievement that we forget where we actually are and who we really are. We are merely inhabitants on this planet, much like the vermin infesting the back of an animal. We are not the subject, but the object that are at the mercy of a living planet following its own course and subservient to planetary rules of the galaxy.
A shift in its position, a change in its atmosphere, a tilt on its axis and a slight rise in its temperature can have effects on human lives that we would describe as phenomenal whereas on a planetary scale, barely discernible.
If the waxing and waning of the moon could affect the ebb and flow of ocean tides and the hormonal changes in a woman’s body, imagine what an increase in the sun’s rays could do or a slight shift in our planetary position.
Our planetary system, moving around the sun, is also constantly moving around our galaxy The Milky Way. Sometimes we are at the edge, sometimes further in, other times closer to the centre. To be sure we’re talking in terms of thousands of years. But it is a relentless cycle nevertheless. Like our earth going round the sun and the moon circling the earth. It is as inevitable as day follows night and nothing we can do could stop this movement.
So we should not be surprised therefore, if things happen on earth caused by this movement. Deluges have happened before and will happen again. It’s just that our memory is short. The last deluge we experienced was the big flood that always featured in our mythology and holy books that devastated the human family, and even that was well beyond any of history’s living memory. It rested in our collective consciousness like an underlying nightmare and upon which all our religious beliefs are based.
But how many deluges had there been on this planet of ours? Countless no doubt. And no doubt wiping out many civilizations in the process. We only need to refer to the works of archeologists to see the different types of catastrophes that our earth had been subjected to and on a planetary scale. We will only see that what we call disasters are actually normal occurrence in the life of a planet.
After all, that was how religion was born among humans. Us trying to come to terms with all the frightening, mysterious and magical phenomena around us for which we could find no explanation.
Now we know why and we have the explanation. The question is, what should we do with this knowledge?
Prayer is hardly the answer, for our God has granted us the intelligence to come up with our own answers. It is up to us to fix adjust our lives to the whims of nature and not the other way round.