Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Serpentine-Inspired Rant

By this point, I don't think I need to actually outline the whole fiasco surrounding the motion to demote serpentine from its position as California's state rock. More prompt geobloggers than I have already outlined this idiocy - seriously, unless you're inhaling serpentine dust like it's oxygen, you're not going to run into an asbestos problem - and those posts (and the flurry of commentary from geotweeters) have reached the attention of national media.

The claim that serpentine is an "unhealthy" rock is ridiculous on its own, but you know what else strikes me as ridiculous about this whole issue? The fact that, suddenly, people are getting all freaked out by the mere idea that something about California's geology might be able to kill them.

Hold the phone! Stop the presses! California's geology may be hazardous to your health and wellbeing?!

This is a state sliced by a plate boundary, with the main fault and all of its subsidiary ones capable of city-destroying earthquakes. We're known for our earthquakes, are we not? This is a state where the configuration of mountains focuses, heats, and speeds up the wind like a huge bellows, and effectively creates corridors of fire. We're known for our fires, are we not? This is a state where steep slopes produce debris flows after storms or slump off after longer rains. We're known for our landslides, are we not? Not to mention the contours of the coastline that serve to magnify distant tsunamis in some cases, or the ski resorts that happen to be dormant volcanoes...

I would say those things can be pretty darn hazardous to your health. I suspect that plenty of people would agree with me: the residents of La Conchita, of Crescent City, or of Sylmar, the historians and current residents of San Francisco, those who visit and monitor Mammoth Mountain, just to name a few. I'd hazard a guess (rimshot) that these folks would find those geological threats far more pressing than some specific minerals that are one component in a rock that's more commonly found underground than in, oh, our lungs. And I suspect the other geologists pushing to keep serpentine as California's state rock would agree with me as well.

So, California's geology can be pretty darn unhealthy, for values of unhealthy ranging from "deadly due to fault surface rupture collapsing one's house on oneself" to "alive but breathing in lots of smoke." But California kind of represents us as Californians, doesn't it? Does that mean the next step is to demote California's entire landscape from representing the state?

That would be ridiculous. But isn't it, then, ridiculous to make a fuss about demoting a rock that is really only dangerous if someone throws it at you, or perhaps if you drive off a cliff with a serpentine outcrop at its base? (Because, in case you somehow missed the other blog entries, tweets, and news articles, serpentine isn't going to give you cancer!)

Aside from all that, the formation of serpentine is directly related to the forces that formed and shaped so much of California to begin with. As such, it's an excellent representative of the state. (And for any politician who knows the word "subduction" and is about to claim it's dangerous for causing quakes and volcanoes, the serpentine is a byproduct of that process, not a cause. If I wanted to be even snarkier than I already have been, I could argue that picking a rock that is dangerous might better represent California's potentially-hazardous landscape. Be glad serpentine is "just" a representative of how the land that became our state got here to begin with. Also, be glad that it's pretty. Can you find me a prettier rock that also represents California well?)

I think that's quite enough from me, at least for now. I'll leave with this note: why is state money getting spent on this issue at all? If California wants to spend money on reducing geologically-induced harm, that money would be better spent on things like seismic retrofits, zoning to avoid earthquake and landslide hazards, clearing brush between the urban-wildland interface to try and avoid fires spreading into neighborhoods, emergency response training for civilians, and general awareness and outreach.

19 comments:

Lockwood said...

There's an old joke... Californians fear only four things: earth, air, fire and water.

CJR said...

Ah, I love a good rant in the morning....

The additional irony is that the presence of serpentinite might actually reduce the risk of city destroying earthquakes, by making the faults weaker (I think Lab Lemming pointed this out last week)

erfie said...

Everything you say is true, but then there's nothing new about California freaking out about health risks that make no sense and aren't health risks and the government stepping in because they just have to DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE DANGER.

Really, when I first heard about the serpentine thing, all I could think was, "Yep, that sounds like something California would do".

姿柯瑩柯dgdd憶曾g智曾 said...

你的部落格不錯哦,支持!!!!@@ ............................................................

佳玲 said...

很用心的部落格~來幫你加油打氣~~^O^..................................................................

宮惠如宮惠如 said...

道歉是人類一定必要的禮節..................................................

正玲宇軒 said...

blog有留言互動才好玩~~希望留言能支持您的更新動力!!!..................................................................

魏育如 said...

好久沒有這樣輕鬆享受閱讀的樂趣了~~留個言邀您分享我的快樂~~..................................................................

華汪昕 said...

不會從失敗中找尋教訓的人,成功之路是遙遠的。.................................................

靖婉亞心 said...

愛,拆開來是心和受兩個字。用心去接受對方的一切,用心去愛對方的所有。......................................................................

珍盈洪 said...

世界上沒有本來就應該的事,因為老天爺也沒有劇本..................................................

黃子黃麗旺軒 said...

責人之心責己,恕己之心恕人。............................................................

偉曹琬 said...

愛情是盲目的,但婚姻恢復了它的視力。..................................................................

承王蓁 said...

thanks god for the chance to enjoy so many good artical...................................................................

涛子 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。.. ... ............................................................

廷家祥家祥雯 said...

來看你了~心在、愛在、牽掛在,幸福才會繁衍不息^^...............................................................

佳張張張張燕張張張張張 said...

愛,拆開來是心和受兩個字。用心去接受對方的一切,用心去愛對方的所有。......................................................................

A said...

I need your help, please. I've been trying to submit my 'experience' to the Accretionary Wedge 27, but every time I try to post it or get it to Lockwood it mysteriously disappears after I see it on the screen under comments. If it is not suitable I'm fine with that but I just want to know why it is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Could you please review it and give me your opinion as to why it isn't being included. And if you find it acceptable to forward it to him. I respect the hosts job of editing what they want too and they can leave what they want in or out. I can accept that but I do feel like a response back is in order as to when there are multiple inquiries as to whether they got it or not. I haven't even gotten that much. Please go to 'Ann's Musings on Geology and Other Things'. http://annsmusingsongeologyotherthings.blogspot.com/ . I can be contacted at amowillis@yahoo.com.
Ann O'Brien Willis

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