Network for the Environment and Social (Human) Security

Earthquakes and the Infrastructure

Posted by on Apr 8, 2011 in Totem | 2 comments

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As long as such natural disasters and catastrophes, as floods, earth- and sea quakes and volcano eruptions are happening only locally, the repair of the damage is, relatively, easy and cheap. Without diminishing the sufferings of the afflicted population.

What if the sum of all local catastrophes is just one catastrophe on a global scale? Signs are already to be seen. Every other week a major earthquake, one in New Zealand and the other in Japan, just as the year 2011 started. The last major Tsunami happened in December 2004 in the Indian Ocean. Last year, because of a volcano eruption, air traffic in Europe was grounded. The ramifications were felt throughout the world. And let us not forget the disastrous earthquake last year, where a quarter of a million people lost their lives. The earthquake destroyed not only the buildings, but also the infrastructure. The hygienic conditions deteriorated and a Cholera epidemic (1) broke out.

Perhaps all these natural catastrophes are not happening more often then in the past. This could be true, but no one can deny the fact, that the numbers of victims are growing according to the sum of people living on earth. The number of victims of the natural disasters of the last and present century, will probably exceed the number of victims of the whole of the last millennium.

In the earthquake in Bam/Iran (2) in 2003about 85% of the infrastructure was damaged. What would be if a earthquake would hit Los Angeles? California is no stranger to earthquakes. As a matter of fact, they are quite common there. And if you talk to someone from California, they will tell you, that the anticipate the big One. It is just a matter of time!

Let us assume only 50% of the infrastructure of Los Angeles (3) is destroyed in the one Big Quake. How can the supply of foodstuff and electricity be maintained? How many Waste Water Purification Plants (WWPP) are working in the metropolitan area of LA? Exactly 11 WWPP service in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area about 17.8 million people.  By a 50% failure quote about 9 million people will be cut off from the WWPP’s, from the power and drink water supply. The responsible parties in the municipality, state and federal administration know about it and still pursue the out of date concept of the conventional, centralized infrastructure. Instead of  investing in a decentralized infrastructure as the TOTEM System (4). The reason why is unclear, since the damage to the infrastructure would be minimized. It is much harder to damage many independent TOTEM Systems than 11 WWPP’s. Also the endless length of the pipes, of which the sewage system consists is prone to get damaged in an earthquake. During a flood the system sewage system is the first to be neutralized. With all the possible consequences, such as a Cholera epidemic. Also from a security point of view, the TOTEM System is better than the conventional infrastructure. A terrorist could blow on of the WWPP’s and the whole system could break down. If there are a couple of hundreds TOTEM System’s servicing the area, it would not really much matter if one of them fails. An important consideration is, that it is a lot easier to make small units quake and flood resilient, than 11 huge facilities. Another important point is, that the earth is always moving. It moves in such a manner, which does not register, but the rigid sewage pipe, made of concrete, are getting damaged and the highly polluted waste water is seeping into the soil and the ground water.

The TOTEM System is, all in all, a much better concept than the conventional, centralized infrastructure.


For further reading:  

1. Haiti Cholera

2. Bam/Iran

3. Los Angeles/USA

4. TOTEM System

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  1. 偵探社

    I appreciate your blog and will subscribe to your rss feed so I can read anytime. Wonderful information;2

  2. childhood obesity

    Chernobyl was scary enough and we all really should have learned from it. Fukushima could be our extinction event, one wonders who would be left to note our passing if that were so….

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