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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, November 11, 2019
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with Errol A. Gatumbato


Rock & Refuge

A series of strong earthquakes occurred in Mindanao in October and it resulted to numerous damages, destructions, and worst, death of 22 persons, as reported by government authorities.

These powerful earthquakes were recorded from 6.3 to 6.6-magnitude, causing the collapse of several buildings and other infrastructures, particularly in South Cotabato and Davao del Sur.

Relief and rehabilitations are still ongoing in affected areas.

It has been said that earthquakes are natural phenomenon, as they can hardly be predicted, and much more prevented. We are also made to believe that no human activities, or anthropogenic disturbances, may induce earthquakes, as they are caused by natural processes when seismic waves pass through the Earth’s rocks.

In October 2017, however, the National Geographic came out with a report entitled, “How humans are causing deadly earthquakes”, based on the study published in the Seismological Research Letters, a scientific journal devoted on seismology.

While I am not implying at all that the pressures and disturbances the people created to our natural environment may have caused the recent earthquakes in Mindanao, I can’t help but think and reflect otherwise after I discovered this article of the National Geographic, which identified 730 sites around the world where human activities reportedly caused earthquakes during the past 150 years. This finding is somewhat similar to scientific studies that claimed the phenomenon of climate change is triggered by our neglect, abuse, and overexploitation of our natural ecosystems.

According to the study cited by the National Geographic, the human-induced earthquakes often occurred in regions of the world where little or no previous recorded seismic activities and far from the edges of tectonic plates. It added that most earthquakes that occur naturally are happening along fault lines, which are commonly found where tectonic plates converge, although not exclusively.

Based on the data of the Seismological Research Letters, the National Geographic further reported that mining was found to have caused the highest number of human induced earthquakes in about 271 sites, as “the removal of material from the earth can cause instability, leading to sudden collapses that trigger earthquakes”.

The report added, “Multiple earthquakes in 167 sites were triggered by the construction of water reservoir impoundment, or dam building”. Oil and natural gas exploration was another large-scale development that has been mentioned in the report to cause earthquakes in several sites, especially in the US, as well as the nuclear explosions in 22 locations and two construction sites.

All of the causes of human-induced earthquakes cited in the report of the National Geographic involved digging, deformation, and disturbances of the Earth’s surface. While these findings may be debatable to other scientists who may insist that no human activities can result to earthquakes, it is still important for us to reflect the kind of development paradigm the world had pursued and is still pursuing.

These causes are all large-scale exploitations of the world’s natural resources and they similarly entail huge environmental destructions that have been argued to trigger climate change.

While earthquake is a natural hazard we are facing because the Philippines lies in the “Ring of Fire”, it is not avoidable to think that, somehow, the disturbances we are creating to our natural environment may aggravate the possible happening of deadly earthquakes. Mining, construction of dams, and natural gas and other energy explorations are all being done here in the country.*

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