Shaking The “Natural” Out of “Natural Disaster”

Written by Elizabeth Pepper, ESLLC 2017-2018

Earthquakes have always been labeled as “natural disasters”, tragedy caused by nature. As scientist continue to explore the causes of such disasters the idea of earthquakes being natural might be changing. Seismology Research Letter, published a study looking at human activity causing earthquakes within the past 150 years. The study identified 730 sites where human activity caused earthquakes. The magnitude of these earthquakes have reached up to magnitudes as high as 7.9. With magnitudes reaching this height, earthquakes cause serious damage to the people and infrastructure in those areas.

A little background: Earthquakes are caused by natural forces, such as tectonic movement of the Earth’s crust. When plates that collide or one plate moves over another earthquakes can occur. Areas that lay on plate boundaries such as California, the western coast of South America, and India are highly susceptible to earthquakes. More earthquakes are occurring farther from fault lines. This raises the question of why these occurrences are happening. Mining accounted for the number one cause of human-induced earthquakes. Dam building, fracking for oil and natural gas, hydraulic fracking, and the byproduct of fracking have all been linked to human-induced earthquakes. Let’s look at hydraulic fracking and how it is causing earthquakes. Hydraulic fracking uses high pressured water and other additives to cause cracks in the shale rock, which allows oil and gas to be extracted. When this happens, the increasing pressure diffuses into areas of lower pressure such as fault zones, causing earthquakes.

These practices such as hydraulic fracking affect not only the atmosphere around us but the ground beneath our feet. The consequences of these unsustainable practices are damaging the psychical structure of our society and the people who inhabited those areas. In developing countries that lack the ability to build sound infrastructure, the risk of damage from earthquakes is greater, and the ability for those countries to rebuild diminishes. Human-induced earthquakes not only affect single areas, they affect entire countries and that country’s ability to move towards better education, healthcare, and technology which creates sustainability.

The article I used was from and other sources were


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