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Nov 18, 2003

A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate 

Thats the title of the book by Marc Reisner, I read recently. A doomsday look at the booming California, supported by facts and coming from a convincing scientist, A Dangerous Place is an informative read. To think about that one and half years ago, I lived right smack on top of the San Andreas Fault, one of the most geologically active faults in US and didn't even care a hoot about it. I knew then that this famed fault was somewhere nearby, but not right under my feet, now 6000 miles north and one book later, I know better.

I took this book because I wanted to know better about California, home for a year, this extensively irrigated, highly populated desert of a 'nation-state' and what its odds were in the long run. Well, after reading this book I would say I'd warn even my grandchildren to stay clear off CA, that is, if its still there with its fake lush charm. But then,some of the greatest cities of the world still exist in the worst of topographies, take Tokyo for example. Tokyo has been built and rebuilt again and again on the same terrain, one of the most earthquake prone in the world, for centuries now. So why shouldn't it be true for San Francisco or LA? If you keep aside the inherent plate tectonic defect of the region, there is still another problem - water. Well, water is problem in almost all the big cities of the world, you don't expect a sinking aquifer or a fast depleting lake to support exploding populations forever, right?

Whatever it is, I think California is like a prototype, a working, living machine, a real time experiment to test how far men can go, how far we can stretch and expand resources and how much can nature tolerate or when will we have to switch to alternatives (no, no no ......not soda instead water kinda alternative) just in time to save ourselves. Reisner has a scenario in the end when a big earthquake strikes SFO, and the last chapters are the simulation and effects of this event, its interesting to read, if you know or live around the place, just to see which houses will stand and which bridges will fall !