Rod Dreher

My friend John Podhoretz, indulging my taste for catastrophe porn, pointed me to this 60 Minutes bit about how the Bay Area is expecting a major earthquake real soon, and making preparations. A choice passage to stiffen a castrophist’s giblet:

Scientists call the Bay Area a tectonic time bomb. Earthquake faults crisscross the region, pushing up mountains and creating the bay itself; the Bay Bridge sits between two of the most dangerous. To the west is the San Andreas Fault, responsible for the devastating quake of 1906 and to the east is the Hayward Fault, just five miles from the Bay Bridge.
Geologist David Schwartz says the Hayward fault ruptures every 140 to 150 years.
“It’s been 141 years since the last large earthquake,” he told Pitts. “And so, it’s time. It’s due.”
“The Hayward Fault sits right in the middle of the Bay area geographically and population wise. Two million people sit directly on top of it. And when it goes, it will be the first major earthquake to occur in the middle of a modern U.S. city. We haven’t had that before. We don’t know what the results of that will be,” Schwartz said.
Asked if such a quake will be devastating, Schwartz said, “It will be something, I think, that’s beyond what we really expect.”

Oh, baby!
Of course John hates this kind of thing, as well he might, given his well-written essay about how the West Side of Manhattan, where he grew up in the ’70s and where he’s now raising a family, did not, in fact, decline into a fatal ruin, but in fact changed markedly for the better. Excerpt:

This is genuine urban renewal, which rose from once-rank soil after the soil was, finally, properly tended and tilled and brought once again to life.
It is an expensive place to live, but then it always was. My children, who are very young, will know, as my sisters and I did, the oddity of being both entirely privileged and yet significantly poorer than most of their classmates and friends. What they will not have to learn, as my sisters and I and our wealthier friends did, is how to accommodate and make normal an ever-present sense of everyday menace. The city’s population shrank by nearly a million people between 1960 and 1980, with 300,000 gone from Manhattan over the course of those 20 years. Some of that was due to the destruction of housing not only by the city’s own slum-clearance policies but also by the ravages of rent controls that led to the abandonment of hundreds of thousands of apartments. But it was also due to middle-class flight, to people who chose to live free of the menace.
“We were giving up so much of our city,” Myron Magnet has written in a beautiful essay on Saul Bellow’s great 1970 novel of Upper West Side (and Western civilizational) decline, Mr. Sammler’s Planet, and how it spoke to his experience as a neighborhood resident. “We came to wonder if New York was a place that stunted human possibility instead of expanding it.”
It did. It no longer does. To hell with nostalgia.

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