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After the Earth QuakesElastic Rebound on an Urban Planet$
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Susan Elizabeth Hough and Roger G. Bilham

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179132

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195179132.001.0001

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Earthquakes as Urban Renewal?

Earthquakes as Urban Renewal?

(p.244) 12 Earthquakes as Urban Renewal?
After the Earth Quakes

Susan Elizabeth Hough

Roger G. Bilham

Oxford University Press

Whether or not the reader finds it convincing, by now the thesis of this book is clear. At least throughout recent history, earthquakes have taken a temporarily heavy toll in some areas, devastating cities, claiming lives, and shaking faith. Yet taking a step back to consider the longer-term impact, one finds that, almost without exception in recent historic times, cities and societies rebound with elasticity to mirror the earth itself. Elastic rebound. These two words represent not only the single most fundamental tenet of earthquake theory but also the most apt metaphor to describe societal response to even the most catastrophic seismic events. As previous chapters have illustrated, mankind’s capacity for elastic rebound is largely a reflection of man’s capacity for elastic rebound. Recall the challenge to Voltaire,“Alas, times and men are like each other and will always be like each other.” These words might have been penned in the context of matters of philosophy: How do we make sense of our existence and our place in the universe? But at the end of the day, most days have not concerned themselves with philosophy, and politics is left to the politicians. At the end of the day, people are people. When a devastating earthquake strikes, perhaps the complex superstructure of society crumbles along with the buildings. When elaborate social and political facades are stripped away, perhaps the finer inclinations of the individual are not changed but rather showcased. It’s a nice thought, at any rate. Whether or not it explains the predilection for resiliency and compassion following disasters is open to debate, but a consideration of history, as outlined in the previous chapters, suggests that the predilection is real—whatever the cause. This remarkable human capacity for rebound is clearly a critical factor mitigating the overall societal impact of earthquakes and other natural disasters. But resiliency and compassion alone cannot hope to rebuild modern cities following a major loss of life and property: recovery requires resources. Having considered important individual earthquakes at some length, we now turn to a general consideration of the economics of earthquakes. Considered dispassionately, one can make the argument that earthquakes invariably become a catalyst for urban renewal.

Keywords:   charity, elastic rebound, focusing effect, hazard, inertia, loans, masonry, research, social change, urban renewal

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