The earthquake actually moved the earth!

The details of the recent Indian Ocean earthquake and the resulting aftershocks and tsunami can be read about at Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.

Some of the details are astounding, with regards the sheer power of the earthquake. For example:

The shift of mass and the massive release of energy very slightly altered the Earth’s rotation. The exact amount is yet undetermined, but theoretical models suggest the earthquake may have shortened the length of a day by as much as three microseconds (3 µs) and caused the Earth to minutely “wobble” on its axis by up to 2.5 cm (1 inch), or perhaps by up to 5 or 6 cm. However, due to tidal effects of the Moon, the length of a day increases by 15 µs every year, so any rotational speedup due to the earthquake will be quickly lost. Similarly, the natural Chandler wobble of the Earth can be up to 15 m (50 ft).

More spectacularly, some of the smaller islands southwest of Sumatra may have moved southwest up to 20 m (66 ft). The northern tip of Sumatra, which is on the Burma Plate (the southern regions are on the Sunda Plate), may also have moved up to 36 m (118 ft) southwest. Movement was likely both vertical as well as lateral. Measurements using GPS and satellite imagery are being used to determine the extent and nature of actual geophysical change.

We live on a living, moving planet; it would be good for us to remember that. We tend to believe that we can control our environment, that we humans are above nature — we are most definitely not.

The human cost I cannot comprehend. If it were up to 6,000 lives I could compare it to the population of my hometown, Selkirk. If it were more than 18,000 lives I could compare it to the population of Hawick … but even that is getting too big for me to comprehend. But more than 150,000… I struggle to grasp what that means. I struggle to make that real and concrete and comprehensible in my own mind, in my own experience.

At church this morning we were exploring new and small ways to keep raising money for the appeal. So far, our immediate response was to send £1,100 with an additional £300+ being added in Gift Aid. Not bad for a congregation of fewer than twenty.

My (perhaps, cynical) fear, however, is that other causes will be forgotten, or that governments will push through undesirable policies while everyone’s attention is drawn elsewhere. Am I just being paranoid?

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