An extract from What's Up with number 26? by Sarah Ng, The Straits Times, Jan 16, 2005:
"THE COMMON FEATURE in these dates is obvious: Jan 26, 2001, Jan 26, 2003, May 26, 2003, Sept 26, 2003, Nov 26, 2003, Dec 26, 2003 and Dec 26, 2004. An email making its round highlights this coincidence. Inevitably, many now wonder if 26 is the number to fear for the next earthquake.
"Geologist Eugene Schweig, from the United States Geological Survey, laughs derisively at the idea. The conclusions are baseless, he told The Sunday Times. 'You could choose any calendar number and find plenty of large earthquakes that occurred. The numbering system of our calendar system is pretty arbitrary. If you looked at a Jewish or Chinese calendar, you would find that all of those earthquakes happened on unrelated days.
" 'So, there is no pattern, and I would not even call it coincidence. Someone just picked earthquakes that occurred on the 26th of months.' Indeed, major earthquakes had also happened on other dates. For example, on May 31, 1970, over 70,000 people died in a 7.9-magnitude quake that struck Peru. On July 28, 1976, a 7.8-magnitude quake rocked Tangshan, in northeastern China, killing more than 240,000. And the list goes on."
JUST WHAT i had been trying to tell some of my colleagues last Friday after doing a Google search on 'earthquakes', 'world', and 'statistics'. One of them had forwarded an email message to us which linked the number "26" with recent earthquakes, pronounced these quakes as acts of God, and 'prophesizing' that the next quake will be on Dec 26, 2005.
In fact, after checking out the the US Geological Survey site, it seemed to me that the earth is quaking all the time! The only difference is in the intensity, on a Richter scale of <2.5 to > 7.
Was quite struck by one thought, "We are as good as sitting on a ticking time bomb! Our lives on this earth is transient indeed!" Was reminded of a parable told by the Buddha, of how a man fell over a cliff, got caught in a tree and yet was enticed by the prospect of licking honey off a hive on the tree.
By the way, read a report in ST a few days ago about how natural mangroves and coral reefs at beaches had protected places like the Maldives and Myanmar from the tsunami. By contrast, beaches where such mangroves and reefs had been removed/damaged (such as those in Phuket, Thailand) had suffered much greater devastation. (Read about this at TERRA.WIRE.)
"Long-term environmental lessons must be drawn from Asia's tsunami disaster, especially the consequences of ripping out mangroves and destroying coral reefs that help protect coasts from sea and storms, experts say."
Another case of "blaming God for the consequences of our collective actions (or inaction)"?
Induced seismicity, as explained in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
In seismology, induced seismicity refers to earthquakes that are caused by human activity. It occurs when this activity alters the stresses and strains in the Earth's crust. Most induced seismicity is of an extremely low magnitude, and in many cases, human activity is merely the trigger for an earthquake that would have occurred naturally in any case.
There are a number of ways in which induced seismicity has been seen to occur:
The mass of water in a reservoir alters the pressure in the rock below, which can trigger earthquakes. Reservoir-induced seismic events can be relatively large compared to other forms of induced seismicity.
Mining leaves voids that can alter the balance of forces in the rock, triggering earthquakes.
Fossil fuel extraction
Subsidence caused by fossil fuel (oil and/or natural gas) extraction can trigger earthquakes.
The huge forces unleashed by nuclear weapons tests have been known to cause seismic activity.
(Also check out Could Exxon-Mobil Works Have Tripped Indonesian Tsunami? Earthquakes can be triggered by human action, Tsunami Earthquake Disaster Causes: Facts And Speculations, and Earthquake: Coincidence or a Corporate Oil Tragedy?)
Why did God create the tectonic plates in the first place?
From geological experts' point of view (see extract below), it's possible that if there were no tectonic plate movements on earth, our planet might not be habitable (read "dead like the other planets").
Such is life, isn't it? Suffering and pain are part and parcel of life. Many times, they can also be caused by our ignorant desires and actions. However, as Edmond has pointed out (see Why God 'Allowed' Deadly Tsunami), God is omnipotent and can draw good out of any evil (CCC 310-312).
Some unanswered questions
(from the U.S. Geological Survey site)
As J. Tuzo Wilson eloquently stated in 1968, "The earth, instead of appearing as an inert statue, is a living, mobile thing." Both the Earth's surface and its interior are in motion. Below the lithospheric plates, at some depth the mantle is partially molten and can flow, albeit slowly, in response to steady forces applied for long periods of time. Just as a solid metal like steel, when exposed to heat and pressure, can be softened and take different shapes, so too can solid rock in the mantle when subjected to heat and pressure in the Earth's interior over millions of years....
The Earth may be unique in our solar system because it appears to be the only planet that is still volcanically and tectonically active; our planet therefore remains very much alive, while the others apparently have long ceased activity. Volcanic activity requires a source of internal heat, and it is the escape of this heat that fuels plate tectonics. While volcanism played a major role in the early history of Mars, the Moon, and probably Mercury, their small sizes relative to Earth resulted in the loss of internal heat at a much faster rate. They have been inactive globes for the last billion years or so....
Eventually the Earth, too, will lose so much heat that its interior will stop convecting. Earthquake and volcanic activity will then cease. No new mountains will form, and the geologic cycle of mountain building, erosion, sedimentation, and soil formation will be disrupted and also will cease. Exactly how a cooled-down Earth will change surface conditions -- and whether our planet will still be habitable -- nobody knows. Fortunately, these changes will not happen for many billions of years!
Fr Mark Link's reflection in Action 2000 on today's readings:
"In the beginning... God created the universe.... The earth produced all kinds of plants, and God was pleased with what he saw." -- Genesis 1:1,12
Jacques Cousteau used to take his young son, Jean-Michel, with him on his undersea explorations. Jean-Michel said later, "My father imparted to me the belief that we are not the owners of the world's resources, but its stewards... responsible for protecting what we have for those who will follow... But as I travel I am struck by how infrequently we keep future generations in mind."
How am I trying to exercise responsible stewardship of the earth's resources?
"The earth belongs as much to those who are to come after us... as to us; and we have no right, by anything we do or neglect, to involve them in unnecessary penalties, or deprive them of benefits." -- John Ruskin