At the age of 63 I went back to school this year. I’m only taking a single class, and with such a light schedule, I’m enjoying it. There’s no pressure. I intend to get an A, but even if I flunked, it wouldn’t matter. I’m just here to learn what I can and enjoy the college experience all over again. Actually, it’s the junior college experience. I was always at university before, and I was rushing like mad because I had degree programs to finish.
My class is Physical Geology 101. It is by default the easiest physical science course available. I think the administrators only put it in the catalog to give athletes a chance to satisfy their physical science requirements. It is a much easier course than Biology, Chemisty, or Physics. I know it’s a dump course because there is no geology 102.
I don’t care. I took the class because I wanted to know more about rocks, the earth, and geology itself. I’m having a ball. I’m learning a lot. Even though this is the easiest of all physical sciences, it is too hard for most of the jocks who signed up for the class. I know it’s too hard for them because they don’t show up.
We just finished a chapter about something called Mass Wasting. Translation: landslides. There’s Creep which is gradual movement of soil downhill at speeds as slow as 1 cm. per year, and there are slides at speeds up to 400 km. per hour. The slides are the ones that kill people outright.
The geology textbook is full of all these pictures of great landslides, landslips, mudslides, deformed graveyards built on hillsides, etc.
This prompted me to comment that “Geology is really the science of disasters.” And the Geology Professor answered, “Yes, and that’s why we love it!” Julietta added that Mother Earth is always seeking equilibrium–balance out the forces at work. These balancing movements are almost always harmful to the stuff that we human beings are doing. Nature works to increase entropy. Men work to reverse it.
Well, I can tell you, from my experiences of being involved in minor disasters–they are no fun for the people experiencing them. Injury, death, property damage, and the loss of everything a person loves–these are human tragedies. I feel sorry for the people of Japan.
And yet, if one can pull back from the experience of disaster and watch it from a distance, there is something awesome about them. I don’t get any pleasure from the suffering that disasters cause. I do, however, experience awe and delight in seeing these amazing natural forces in action. It is the same glee that comes from watching lightning bolts in the sky during a storm. I don’t want to be hit by one, and I’m sorry for anyone who is, but wow! those natural forces are superb.
Geological disasters have many forms: earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanoes, landslides, and even simple erosion by means of such things as floods and windstorms count. We live by the motto of “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” When the big stuff comes along, we are very likely to die from it.
But everything is relative–one person’s catastrophe is another person’s opportunity. In the short run Nature fights a losing battle with us. For every town and village that Geology destroys, two or more will rise to take their place. Men die, but Man perseveres and conquers.
And Geology enables us to understand it all.
Kali, how I love you and the destructive forces of Nature! Just don’t destroy me, please. And if you do, make it quick.