A Mudslide, Foretold

It is human nature to look potential disaster in the face and see a bright, shining lie.

Comments: 202

  1. So Mr Egan is not some Johnny-Come-Lately but - rather - he himself saw with his very own eyes - and almost 25 years ago, now - the future.

    Things turn out badly when one tries to fool Mother Nature. When will we ever learn?

  2. Ignorance is not bliss, however denial is something to which we all are prone. Thank you, Mr. Egan, for shedding some light on this tragedy.
    Anger at those who bring knowledge does not further our capacity to live in harmony with this planet. We are changing our ways, but it may be much to slowly for millions, as the article on the Bangladesh delta region shows, as the people in Oso experienced. But only with a clarity of vision can we even begin to make a change.

  3. Unfortunately this disaster does seem to have a lot pointing to it before the hill moved, mainly the fact that it had moved numerous times before in very big slides that altered the course of the river and came pretty close to the first homes. The maps the Times provided a day or so ago showed the historic slides, their date and extent. This is like that coastal landslide a few years ago in California where a big slide a century ago buried the railroad and highway... which where moved far from the slope to protect them in the future. Unfortunately the land between the highway/railroad was sold and developed, and when the hill moved again it took out all these homes... but stopped just before the Southern Pacific Railroad and Highway 101.

  4. A great comment… I wonder why we allow all these homes built in the fire prone and hard to access areas here LA county.

  5. But, but - i thought the Invisible Hand invariably worked for the benefit of all! Surely everyone pursuing his individual selfish good, whether the developers who built in the path of the mudslide, the residents who bought the houses, the loggers who cleared the way, the consumers whose desire for material conveniences hasten climate change, the industrialists who cater to those desires - contribute to the overall benefit of society? look at it this way; it creates jobs for rescue workers, hospitals, excavators, undertakers, those who build FEMA trailers and set up soup kitchens to cater to the displaced. Lots of money to be made off disasters. And as long as we fail to learn from them, the money mill just keeps churning.

  6. Lack of regulation automatically translating into jobs for disaster workers? Heck of a way to look at it. I'd prefer sensible regulation, and letting more businesses into the area for economic development. It means less chance of creating loosely filled graveyards that are one square mile in area.

  7. Tommy Tuna, I was being facetious. You and five other readers seem to have missed that.

  8. A sensible, informative article. The long and treacherous process of people and (or vs.) nature on this continent seems to be a deep, important theme. It evokes our compassion for those caught in the process, unknowingly. One hopes we can learn, and that these slaps from Mother Nature will be taken seriously.

  9. Thank you, Mr. Egan, for a column that touches the truth in so many places. At the hub of all these facts - the over-logging, the denial of scientific assessment, the hatred of environmentalists, the migration of Appalachians to the Northwest, the self-destructive fervor of anti-Government sentiment - is the cancer within our nation. A it's center our disease is the poisoning of our civitas, a willful distortion of important realities perpetrated by a cynical and powerful elite who control our media and political discourse with motives that can only be described as sociopathic. Thus scientists are tarred as "egghead elitists," those who care about the environment "addled extremists," and those who attempt to impose reasonable legal regulations "jack-booted government agents." Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson must be synchronously turning in their graves.

  10. how ironic the very loggers that may have been hired to log this sensitive area are now the prime rescue people. I was a middle-school science teacher, and even at my level of knowledge it was evident from the 'before' pictures that this area had slumped and was precarious and that the situation was exacerbated by the obvious logging, clearly visible, along with the various stages of regrowth (does not equal the services performed by undisturbed forest), and the proximity of the river. I am so sad for these people, and I am amazed that anyone at all survived, esp. the little boy and the old man.
    What is the property right wing going to have to say about these peoples 'property'? I'm sure there will be more on that much later as well as lawsuits for the loss of life.

  11. Man proposes and Mother Nature disposes. The horrific landslide by the Stilly River wiped out two communities one week ago. 15 years ago, it was predicted that another mudslide like this one, from loggers denuding the land of its mighty forests for manufacturing wood and toilet paper, would occur. And it did, one week ago. Who pays attention to predicted inconvenient truths? There are still many dozens of beloved men, women and children buried under the mud.

    3 Weeks ago, the Boeing 777 Dreamliner, Malaysia Flt 370, on a routine red-eye route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared into thin air and is being tracked to the Southern Indian Ocean in the Roaring Forties. Aboard this plane were 239 precious souls who disappeared on their flying carpet.

    Terrible things come in threes. First the catastrophe of the missing Malaysian jet flight, then the mudslide in the foothills of the Cascades in Washington. And might not the third event be the long-predicted "Big One" - earthquake along the San Andreas Fault in California. predicted in 1905? See the tremblors erupting in California in the past week from San Diego north to Ventura County? It is not a question of IF there will be a California quake, but WHEN it will occur. Perhaps there's still some time to prepare for this event, shrugged off by man's unwillingness to embrace inconvenient truths.

  12. Sheesh. How an airliner going astray and crashing could be related to the CA Big One (only one?) is beyond me.

    Maybe your third "thing" is Putin's annexation of Crimea--one a huge physical geological disaster, one a mechanical human one, and the third the political kind.

  13. You'll be getting comments from a bunch of deniers that have ruined your colleague Andrew Refkin's environmental blog by overwhelming any realistic comments These people and others like them simply delay, delay and delay until so much environmental damage has been done it cannit be reversed. Thanks for trying to enlighten them. Sad this story has not been told in all the coverage of this man made tragedy.

  14. many of us who noticed this the day after it happened started to spread the word about clear cutting.. So, continue on- SPREAD the word!!!!

  15. I thought this piece was going somewhere else, about broadly educating people about why there are rules like legal limits for logging -- what they are based on and how much of a margin of safety they provide. Because while the people may well have not insisted on hearing "bad news," maybe if they started from broad neutral principles, they could get to some of these conclusions together with the big bad scientists and government regulators, instead of seeing the scientists and officials as adversaries and fighting with them about the conclusions.

  16. Even after a tragedy such as the Oso mudslide, people still act as if it's their right to live anywhere they want to, and don't want the government to tell them where to build. But isn't it the role and responsibility of people who live in a democracy to educate themselves on not only the joys of living in a region like this, but the perils? They ignored the government's and environmentalists scientific reports, because they don't like to be told what to do, what to think, and where to live. So the ultimate price for this misguided defiance is ignorance, death, uncertainly, and the haunting pain of loss and displacement.

  17. I wholeheartedly agree with you that people need to educate themselves. Sadly, so few are interested, especially in the sciences. Indeed "scientist" is almost a dirty word for some. (A sad reflection on our education system?) Even people who should know better, embrace ignorance. Paul Broun (Congressman from Georgia) who has a degree in Chemistry and also an MD) has said that "all that I was taught about evolution, embryology and the Big Bang is (sic) lies from the pit of hell." He also believes that the world is only 9,000 years old. The truly appalling thing is that this man is on the Congressional Science Committee.

  18. Andrea:

    You impute willfulness, mulishness even, to people who may simply be victims of land developers who sold them a retirement or second home without informing them of the potential perils. We see this all the time -- people buying homes, for example, in the way of airport expansions that eventually make their lives miserable with air traffic, when such plans were known for a long time but if admitted by those seeking to sell the land would depress land values or even the land's salability . Someone seeking to buy a habitation shouldn't need to conduct an extensive, unilateral and expensive discovery into the safety of the land before they buy it.

    The solution is to force land developers and real estate agents to make full disclosure of the characteristics of developed properties to prospective buyers, and to simply prohibit new development of land that is demonstrably unstable. Problem is that conservationists and environmentalists start insisting on ideologically-based definitions of "unstable", instead of merely what a geologist says. As a result, controversy is injected into an issue that shouldn't be controversial, and we can pass no legislation.

  19. Destruction of nature comes back to bite us. Global warming enables the beatles to eat up more trees, so there are millions of acres of dead trees out west, and for those trees able to live to a harvestable age, logging is their fate and with the logging, the loss of root systems that drink the rains and hold the land in place. People have no understanding of the importance of fully developed and mature woodlands for the safety of our earth's health and thus the health and well being of all living creatures, including humans. People are the problem, and more than that, people's attitudes are the problem. Put that together with too many people with deliberately ignorant attitudes, and we have disaster. Individual by individual, these people were innocent bystanders. Who is responsible? All of us, really. But it wouldn't hurt to review who knew what and when to determine the extent of the willful neglect of the safety of this community.

  20. The Beatles didn't eat up any trees as far as I know.

  21. 'The Beatles didn't eat up any trees as far as I know.'

    Ah, but their petroleum-based vinyl records took an environmental toll, surely? :}
    (I think we need a smile in such grim times.

  22. I'm sure that the first thing many of us thought of when we heard of this disaster was excessive, clear-cut logging. But there has been virtually no suggestion of it in the coverage, so we have had to wait for Tim Egan to finally blow the whistle and begin to approach the truth of this horror. Denial almost always serves the interests of those in power, even as it leads others to dismay and ruin.

  23. the Timber industry PR firms have done an excellent job of deflecting criticism from their destructive practices- its ok to say "clear cut" or "deforestation" about Haiti, but not about what happens here. They are in total denial about it.

  24. Industrial clear-cut logging has long been the malignant (and under-reported) cancer of the greater Pacific Northwest. Another stark example of Giganta-Corp's ever tightening tentacles. And those who point out this demonstrable truth are regularly derided as 'eco-weirdos/terrorists/socialists, etc.'

  25. When growing hemp is legalized there will be no further need to cut trees for paper or plywood.
    Of course the pillagers of our national forests, taking our trees for pennies, will heartily disagree.

  26. I am sure that in some cases logging does increase the probability of slides, but main determinant is the geology of the area. Some of the slides in this general area are hundreds if not thousands of years old.. Read some of the scientific reports you cite.

  27. yes, but you read the reports from over the last 70 years.. each major slide happened a few years after a clear cut in that same region... seen it myself out in Southern Oregon.

  28. Egan's articles are a national treasure and ACW's comment was pitch perfect.

  29. F. Scott Fitzgerald saw what Timothy Egan is so eloquently talking about when he wrote of Tom and Daisy Buchanan in "The Great Gatsby:" "They were careless people . . . they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness . . . and let other people clean up the mess they had made." There are too many Tom and Daisy Buchanans in America today - not all of them rich. The messes keep coming and getting bigger - the oil spills, the devastation by wildfire and hurricane - and the Buchanans among us leave the cleanup to the government (and the taxpayers) they so loudly detest.

  30. There are two divergent points in this column, one valid, one not so much.

    First, it's true that people will build in zones with known hazards. Living in San Francisco, I speak from personal experience. Most of the time, nothing happens. But when it does, disaster. The human timescale is a lifetime or two, not the centuries and millennia of geographic time. It seems true that we all live somewhere with some potential for disaster - if we wait long enough. A meteor could strike earth any time, then ...

    Second: blaming this incident on a particular human-caused circumstance misses the point. It would have happened, with or without logging. Like many inhabited hillsides in LA, this mountain was and will continue to be inherently unstable. Small human influences on rocks, dirt, faults, fissures, and other geographical phenomena, are minimal. Mountains go up, mountains come down. With or without logging, this hill would have gone now or 10 years or 100 years from now. And people would still have been living there.

    Much of the rest of Washington state is built on lava fields: inactive in the 100+ years Europeans have been there. But that won't prevent major catastrophe when Ranier decides to go. It won't change the human behavior that contributes to such disaster.

    Bottom line: none of this is avoidable. We live on a faulty planet rife with the hazards of shifting geography. We must live somewhere, we can't save ourselves from the risks.

  31. We can, however, mitigate those risks. First, let's make sure we understand the risks including nature, scope and likelihood of the risks. Then take appropriate steps to mitigate.

  32. Your second point is not valid. Foresters have had plenty of soil and geological information for decades, and they could have avoided, if they had wanted to, the most hazardous areas like this one apparently is. All over the Pacific Northwest, they've chosen not to use the precautionary principle so they can meet a target of board-feet. This is no act of God; every acre is not the same, and we can tell for the most part what areas are most vulnerable.

    OF COURSE timber harvest-caused landslides are avoidable.

  33. "It would have happened with or without logging."
    You can say that because...?

  34. Sad but true. Thanks for writing this.

  35. How piercingly ironic that white men drove the Native Americans from their lands all over the nation, and proceeded to utterly desecrate our beautiful country. In today's NY Times, there is an article about how Scott Walker in Wisconsin has given an unfettered free pass to totally destroy pristine waters by open pit mining, over the protests of Native American elders. For anyone who has read Mr. Egan's book, The Worst Hard Times, you are aware that the genesis of the Dust Bowl was the complete evisceration of the grasslands, and slaughter of millions of bison, upending Nature's delicate balance of ecosystems. We would be wise to heed, rather than disregard, the reverence of Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky which are the very core of all Native American beliefs, and not continue to delude ourselves into thinking that we can control Nature. A light, respectful footprint, as that lived by Native Americans, is our only path to salvation, yet we seem unable to stop our reckless plunder or acknowledge the many warnings given us by our planet. I grieve for those souls lost by the Stillaguamish, but I profoundly hope that their loss sends the most powerful message possible. We do not have infinite time to change course.

  36. The Native Americans you idealise and idolise weren't necessarily deeply respectful of the land and its inhabitants either. For instance, one common method of buffalo hunting was to drive entire herds over a cliff, killing far more than they could eat (and leaving the injured surplus to die slowly). Sentimental fiction notwithstanding, the Native Americans were a variety of tribes, some more ecologically conscious than others, and the only reason they didn't rape the land is that they didn't have the technology.
    I'm against overlogging as much as anyone but I get irrititated with, in WS Gilbert's phrase, 'the idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone/all centuries but this and every country but his own.'

  37. In 1910 the author of Our Southern Highlanders, Horace Kephart, warned of this very threat. From the chapter, "A Bear Hunt in the Smokies." Kephart hears "away down in the rear . . . the snort of a locomotive, one of those cogged wheeled affairs that are especially built for mountain climbing. . . it was despoiling the Tennessee forest. Slowly, but inexorably, a leviathan was crawling into the wilderness and was soon to consume it. All this, I apostrophized, shall be swept away, tree and plant, beast and fish. Fire will blacken the earth; flood will swallow and spew forth the soil. . . soot will arise, and foul gases; the streams will run murky death. Let me not see it!"

  38. "In both cases you love the land." As a man who continually beats his wife loves her. In cases like this, the Dust Bowl and many others the land 'turns on you" after having been abused for a long time.

  39. In his very important book, "Collapse" Jared Diamond draws a correlation between deforestation and the collapse of societies. This tragedy is a warning.

  40. blah blah blah Trying to sound profound about geological re-organization that has been going on for millions of years. Okay, we're impressed.

  41. Actually, this exact area has had documented slides in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1990s, and 2000s. I suppose this would be includud in Neil Elliott's "millions." Would this therefore quality as "profound?"

  42. Neil - you obviously haven't read a word of the article nor the readers comments- I suggest that you try again.

  43. "Trying to sound profound" is not the case. Common sense is more like it.

  44. "It’s not their fault that the earth moved, certainly. But they should insist that their public officials tell them the plain truth when the science is bad news."

    It's been my experience that these kinds of folks don't take kindly to views that don't comport with their own world view. Good luck with that.

  45. It is hard to convince someone of a fact if his income depends on his denying its truth. If you want to build a house in an area that is dangerous, you may not want to hear anyone say that there is danger.
    If we don't do something about climate change soon, many of us who live in homes and go to jobs on the coast of our great land may find ourselves underwater. We did not have to build in an area of great danger. The danger will seek us out.

  46. Denial has lulled us into believing we are immune to the viscissitudes of Mother Nature. The crisis that only unfolds after decades allows us to believe our risky decisions are safe. Action can be postponed until terror forces a response. So, we “put on” too much weight, and conveniently deny it will impact our bodies. Much the same attitude gives us the security to live near water, on faults and hillsides, etc. Fundamentalism has added a more difficult dimension to our ability to respond. This denial is secured with belief that rejects science with a fiercely negative attitude. It is a frightening force that has truly limited action. Wealth and power want to maintain the status quo. Responses to Mother Nature cannot imperil those whose wealth depend on land development or continued pollution or tree cutting or …. It’s hypocritical to ask any god/God for help when we deny our role and have failed to manage the creation wisely.

  47. Thanks, RevWayne.....The terms "God's Will" and "Act of God' have long been tongue clicks too easily used and abused. Since my Seminary years I have preferred blaming "Mother Nature" for quakes and quirks.

  48. Mr. Egan I have always enjoyed your editorials. My Grandfather and his brothers were loggers in Southern Washington State. I have seen pictures of trees 6' across the butt of them but this was back in the 1930"s. I have seen what logging has done to Idaho and this is to be expected. All one has to do is live in a logging community to see the effects now the logging is coming to an end in Idaho. We have to do something about the enviroment

  49. both political parties will never do the right thing and ban clear cut logging and require all logging to follow selective cut methods- even if a mud slide were to hit D.C. it wouldn;t happen... such are the powerful Timber industry and their lobbyists- almost as bad as the Gun lobby. Only heavily financially supported ballot measures can change that.

  50. My daughter in SoCal is still feeling the aftershocks of yesterday's 5.1 earthquake. She reassures us that the building in which she resides is quake proof. Further east from SoCal....we hear of seismic quake like movements due to fracking activities. Man made, not act of God.

  51. I was in Sacramento when the earthquake it. Was fracking the cause then? How do you explain "quake" like movements 25, 50 , 75, 100 years ago? And if you look further east you actually see the number of tornadoes have dropped over the last 10 years. Sorry, you have nothing to back up what you say.

  52. No healedbygod, I am not implying that this or previous earthquakes in CA are due to fracking. Folks in SoCal know firsthand that they live on the fault line. But folks east of CA, in OK are reporting new shallow seismic activities, unrelated to the fault line, more likely due to man made causes.

  53. Mr. Egan, logging might be the proximal cause of this slide, but this is a landscape that is geologically young and hence inherently subject to landslides. Suppose, instead of logging, that a wildfire had been allowed to burn the trees? Would you then blame the fire? You yourself have written about the madness of our wildfire suppression policies, but if those policies had not been in place, perhaps there would have been no trees to harvest. But there would still have been a landslide. In short, the right policy prescription is not entirely clear. Maybe the main mistake is that people are allowed to build houses in such an unstable landscape? But maybe they should be allowed to live in such a beautiful place, as long as they take responsibility for the risks. I support allowing some fires to burn, some trees to be harvested, and some people to live in places that are extraordinarily beautiful yet occasionally dangerous.

  54. I've read other reports that state that excess water in the soil plus undercutting by the river may be the main causes of the slide. While tree roots are effective at retaining soil, it's unclear to me that their absence would cause a slide or their presence prevent one.

  55. Except that when landslides occur in burned areas in the NW, logging almost certainly played a role.

    Our logging policies are part of the madness of our wildlife suppression policies. Natural cycles of fire clear out undergrowth but don't burn hot enough to damage old trees in a way that would destabilize a hillside like this, as Mr. Egan has explained in some of his pieces on wildfires.

  56. What you wrote makes no sense whatsoever. Just because a fire might ... and 'might' is a pretty big qualifier in a landscape with little natural fire history ... have incinerated some trees at some point in the unknowable future, that's no reason to allow timber cutting to create such monumental hazards.

  57. Very insightful article. I live near this area and have to wonder why these folks were not "afraid" for at least a month before the slide. There were numerous ones over the roads to the north east of Mt. Vernon. Logging has been the "great plunderer" of this area and many like it, yet no one will admit it. I am surprised that Snoqualmie is still standing after so much clear cutting around it for years. Yet, the people stay. As someone else said, when will they ever learn.

  58. Maps of the USA used to have a large dark spot in the lower left corner. It was called the Great American Desert. Not a helpful for reminder for populating the area, or selling homes, the Great American Desert is no longer mentioned. But it is still there.

  59. it probably contributed to the fear of buying or building a home there.. so the Real Estate industry simply had then name removed- gotta look out for those commissions you know.

  60. "Yes, but who wants to listen to warnings by pesky scientists, to pay heed to predictions by environmental nags, or allow an intrusive government to limit private property rights? That’s how these issues get cast."

    Yes indeed. The vitriole endured by environmentalists and those advocating for sensible zoning in rural Oregon and Washington states is amazing. The "rugged individualists" hate the government.

    Was this event avoidable? Probably not. There were other factors involved besides the logging. There was a steep slope, glacial soils, and a river eating away at the toe of the hill. The illegal logging included a small area that extended beyond the boundary of an approved logged area. While this may have been a contributing factor to the slide, it was probably not the only cause.

    All that said, building should not have been allowed in this known hazard area.

  61. i disagree, logging had a tremendous amount to do with the slide- after mature trees are cut, there is no way to absorb any heavy rain that falls on the hillside. The water seeps tens of feet into the ground, which normally would have been absorbed by mature tree roots. Over time of about a few years to even over 10-15 years the sub soil gets so unstable that any outside force, even minor , such as a minor earthquake or continued stream erosion or home building can set off a slide. Those mature trees stabilized the soil.. i doubt very much if a slide would have happened if mature trees were there.

  62. And the most vitriolic of the gubbermint haters are usually first in line for disaster aid. You just wait & watch.

  63. There's a set of land-use prohibitions that I'd bet a large majority of Americans would support without griping, and they would focus on keeping human habitations off of unstable ground. The reason that they're not enacted generally, and particularly in our more libertarian west, is that those who seek to enact them tend to conflate those restrictions with others that a majority of Americans may NOT accept, such as efforts to save the smelt at the cost of productive use of land.

    Now, I know there are a lot of folks who support the saving of the smelt, at just about any cost, and many of them inhabit a strip of land that starts in Mr. Egan's Seattle and heads south along our Pacific coast for about 1100 miles. But when you try to do too many things, you really end up not doing anything.

    We are a nation of deeply divided convictions, and ALL of them really need to be respected. But if we want to move forward, there are things we can agree on, legislate then get on with fighting over more controversial issues.

    The only real adversaries with any heft to a general prohibition against building habitations on land that geologists say is unstable, particularly if it has known catastrophic events of instability in the past, are land developers. Well, we can't just shoot these worthies, but we can certainly override their interests with a greater interest -- we do it all the time with eminent domain and by other means. But let's try to make it clean, and leave the smelt out of it.

  64. So the Endangered Species Act is to blame for people ignoring science and building in dangerous places?

    How about a more realistic explanation: Land developers (and wealthy homeowners) have money. They donate money to politicians. Politicians protect the interests (shortsighted and selfish as those interests might be) of their donors. This explains why eminent domain hasn't been used to deal effectively with the hazards of living in places that have historic or known risks - like the canyons in L.A. county or the New Jersey shore, for example.

  65. Richard, I am not sure what you have against smelt, but surely there is a happy medium in which we can accommodate saving an entire species, and letting you put some land to what you consider a more "productive use". I do fisheries habitat restoration professionally, and such species can be protected, while leaving most land available for some other form of "productive use".

    You see, when you deny the ability to save one species, you end up saving no species.

    But even if we wanted to write off smelt, so you can get on with your productivity, there will always be another species, then another, then another, as we continue to carve up and pave over the ever diminishing bits of habitat. But it does not stop even with just the lowly smelt, because they feed bigger fish, like salmon, which in turn feed us, and those majestic orcas we all profess to love so much. Have you not realized that in the natural world, everything really is connected to everything else?

  66. Rita's on the right track, and anyone who knows Snohomish County knows that developers there have been driving the land use bus for years. No action was taken and no warnings given after the slide of 2006 in exactly the same location as the Oso slide. No bankers paid attention when mortgages were granted, no real estate brokers were willing to let the facts get in the way of a sale, developers chose to build and sell homes in a known slide area. In a way they're all innocent of wrongdoing and yet in another way they all have blood on their hands. All that remains is the fact that a lot of people lost their lives.

  67. Yet there are those among us who will continue to vehemently deny that reckless human behavior carries no environmental consequences. They should all visit Oso,

  68. They bring up God's promise to Noah. Well, God didn't say 'even if you are really stupid...'least not in my Bible.

  69. Rampant logging continues to ravage ecosystems. So what value do we place on the resources we obtain from logging? First, although we account for 5% of the world's population, we use 30% of the world's paper. Grocery store shelves are filled with napkins, pampers, and paper towels that will be trashed after a single use. That paper was a tree, a living organism supporting a network of wildlife and stabilizing mountains, that took decades to mature. The invention of a paper towel used to dry damp hands is as devastating to the forest environment as a BP oil spill is to the ocean. Once a forest is clear cut, particularly if it contains wetlands, the damage is so severe it cannot recover for decades, if ever. And to top it off, manufacture of paper products ranks 3rd in carbon emissions without including fuel burned to provide delivery. American waste is an unmitigated disaster, nothing is cherished, not even water (see the Wisconsin pit mine article in today's paper). While we gulp anti-depressants we are racing toward a mass suicide! Without change, the ascent of man will arc toward a slide of our own making.

  70. we can also start growing and harvesting industrial hemp to help reduce and hopefully eliminate the need to use wood products- maybe its fantasizing but its worth a shot.

  71. This is the time to point out the benefits of replacing wood paper with hemp pper, at least.

  72. The Puget Sound area of Washington has many potential slide zones, resulting from residual glacial deposits, inappropriate development and other destabilizing land uses like clear cut logging for high density housing.

    So naturally, a disaster like this has a lot of people wondering about the risks in their own backyard. And there is a lot of LIDAR mapping for the region, that identifies underlying geologic problems. But none of this is known or disclosed to property owners, almost certainly because it would reduce property values.

    So barring some kind of government action to better disclose risks, prospective property buyers are left to make their own poorly informed judgements.

    Oh, and the area has a 9.0 earthquake every 1,000 years or so and it has been about...well... around 1,000 years since the last one.

  73. Regarding "prospective property buyers are left to make their own poorly informed judgements", I have friends here in the Pac NW who live at the top of a rather impressive slope. Before purchasing the property they engaged the services of a geologist to get an expert opinion. I'd like to think that if they had been contemplating property at the bottom of the slope they would have done the same thing.

  74. Ah yes, land use. Here's a topic, not restricted to the U.S., that won't go away any time soon. My own inclinations are yours Mr. Egan, that humanity has an intellect that can collect, process, and consider the evidence of existence, and render right actions leading to more likely positive outcomes.

    For instance, south of Oso, in the river valleys fed by Mt. Rainier, have been installed warning systems to attempt to save tens of thousands of lives in the event that Rainier unleashes, as it is won't to do without warning, enormous lahars.

    But try to tell a landowner they can't develop, or a builder they can't construct because of slopes, soils, water, wetlands or even contaminants and you'll find yourself subject to immediate attack.

    We've become a society that insists on both being allowed to do what we desire, and a society that insists on placing blame when our desires result in tragic outcomes.

  75. I live here in the Seattle area, and the first thing I noticed from the photos of the mudslide was the evidence of recent logging -- seen all over the place in this part of the country. I read the articles about the fights to stop logging of the plateau above the slide, and how the state caved in every time -- money always talks. And I've been completely dumbfounded, in this great state where we put the entire state on Amber alert if a child goes missing, that no one was willing to place responsibility on logging for the deaths of probably more than 100 people. My own wife (from this area, while I'm from CA originally) said it's the price we have to pay for harvesting the land's bounty, and that seems to be the prevailing sentiment. Just like it's OK to drive a big truck and pollute, the price of economic freedom. I'm still dumbfounded.

  76. I have personally seen and fished for steelhead in many of these formerly pristine areas, devastated for years by uncontrolled logging whose damage will last for centuries. The environmental devastation taking place out there was recognized in 1937 by FDR when he visited a clear cut along the Hoh River. the following is from Doug Rose book "The Color of Winter"

    ""I hope the guy that did this is rotting in hell, Roosevelt said as he passed an especially egregious cut south of the Hoh.."

    I'll add that FDR used a three letter expletive rather than the term "guy".

  77. The upper Siletz River in Oregon was savagely clearcut in the 60's by loggers. I saw a massively destroyed watershed when I arrived in 1973. The river has not recovered. Among lessons unlearned, include the US forest service in Oregon. The USFS still selling clear-cuts on Mt. Hood.

  78. IT REALLY doesn't seem to matter what happens in the usa. mass murders by demented gun owners, environmental disasters, wall street meltdowns, health care for all---money and lobbyists seem to talk more than it does in other western democracies.....

  79. There were warning too about the mudslide and flooding that occurred in 2007 in Lewis County in southwestern Washington.
    Heavy rains caused the slide there from a clear-cut mountain top to a natural floodplain. Few lives were lost, but there was extensive property damage.


  80. Poignant, current, and crucial. In a time of current pain....necessary words from a writer who, with empathy, gives a solid grounding of reality.

  81. I am one of those pesky scientists, a professional geologist licensed in the state of Texas. And I long ago came to terms with being ignored or denied by most people at some time, whether motivated by ignorance, greed, or politics. And denial comes from all of the political spectrum, as evidenced by the comments here. The typical NYT reader probably agrees with policies that might limit logging on unstable slopes. But geologists also condemn building on equally unstable barrier islands, landscape elements just as ephemeral as the hills around Oso. And if I suggest that hydro-fracking only triggers earthquakes barely (or not) perceptible? (Deep injection wells are another issue.)

    Egan mentions the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Many of the lives lost in Anchorage resulted from failure of an unstable bluff that destroyed a neighborhood. Did the families living there then understand the risk? Most of the area now is preserved as a jumbled landscape in Earthquake Park. I used to lead school groups on field trips to see what happened in 1964, and I know most local people have heard much more about earthquake hazards. Yet a small part of the same area, outside the park limit, has been re-graded and re-inhabited. Sigh.

  82. What are you saying, exactly, about hydro-fracking? that it only triggers barely perceptible earthquakes? Are you saying this is an acceptable risk? Is there no risk of contaminating underground aquifers? What is the difference between that and deep injection wells?

    Must fracking play such a big part in solving our energy needs? Why is it that Conservation, changing the way we use energy, almost NEVER comes up in public discussions on energy policy in this country?

  83. I lived at the Jersey Shore, and i always thought building on barrier islands was nuts.

  84. Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming, and how to Prevent Them by Bazerman and Watkins.

    "A 'Predictable Surprise' describes a situation or circumstance in which avoidable crises are marginalized in order to satisfy economic and social policies."

    "Max H. Bazerman and Michael D. Watkins define "predictable surprises" as problems that at least some people are aware of,are getting worse over time, and are likely to explode into a crisis eventually, but are not prioritized by key decision-makers or have not elicited a response fast enough to prevent severe damage. The problems behind "predictable surprises" tend to require a significant investment in the near term that will not pay off until later. This could involve changes to established organization culture and/or changes that competing interests do not benefit from."

  85. Fascinating story of what happened in Oregon. Timothy Egan is very credible writer and he does not mince his words. 'Act of God', indeed. How the Oregonians handle this catastrophes event? The are not known for their bigotry and general ignorance.

    What are the Oregon officials saying? There was, perhaps, some news reporting on it I missed for avalanche of another news.

    Are we here in Big Bear, CA, in a similar danger? I hope not. We are surrounded by a National Forest where logging has been severely limited for decades. We do not have major river up here around 600 fee above the sea level. So, we may be safe - frequent wild fires came close to my house over the past 8 years but none close enough to evacuate.

    The political message: not only Republicans but rational people can be irrational and when they are, some of them are paying with their lives.

    BTW, no need to bring the Dust Ball here, also a man made disaster some 80 plus years ago. Over logging, however, can bring disasters, too.

  86. Address your questions to Washingtonians. But we also have slides in Oregon, like you do in northwestern CA.

  87. There are some places on the planet which are just too beautiful not to want to live in. Unfortunately, some of them are, like the beautiful black widow, potentially deadly.

    California beware!

    Thank god I Iive in the bucolic, but placid, Northwestern Hills of CT.

  88. The land doesn't turn on us; we turn on it and ourselves in rapacious acts of destruction. Talk about "paradise lost..."

  89. Ripping the tops off of mountains for coal, clear cutting forests, fracking, chemical dumping, unregulated ponding of sludge from coal fed power plants, one oil spill after another: there is no end to the rape of the only home we have. All done in the name of the American Game GREED.

  90. My wife's ex put it best. We pump in fresh water that is treated to drinkability, and then we defecate in it. Sums up every thing that is so wrong. What some people would do for the fresh H2O in your toilet.

  91. The savage industrial logging of the American primary forest is a long running tragedy that few like to talk about any more. This isn't the first time that people have died from slides caused by denuded hillsides in the Northwest. It's a horrifying way to go, and we will see paid timber company geologists come forward to blame the storm or people living there. The fact is that these events are quite rare in fully canopied forests.

    About 90% of our native forest ecosystems have been logged, with consequences for salmon, forest health, and our carbon budget. If we stopped building our homes out of two by fours, we would save hundreds of tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, and be able to enjoy houses that might actually last a few generations before becoming leaky, rotten, and dimensionally unstable.

    A future leader is going to have to confront our timber industry and homebuilders about this problem. Otherwise, they will continue to chase nothing but the bottom line, along with the oil and gas pirates, banking hustlers, and the rest of the slime that has captured our nation. It's up to us to stop the horror.

  92. In my San Francisco neighborhood, where tech money is buying, gutting, remodeling Victorian houses I see wood taken out and trashed. I wish people understood -- like water -- we don't have wood to waste.

  93. Clear cutting is second to mountaintop removal for environmental destruction.

    A few years ago the city of Salem Oregon had to shut down its water system when mudslides along the Santiam River filled their reservoirs with debris.

    The logging companies clear cut, and replant like a farm. they remove all the underbrush and small plants the wildlife depends on, they scrape the earth bare. You can see the results around Mt. Shasta, where there is a forest of telephone poles, instead of the original healthy forest. Clarence King wrote "the forest was so thick, we got lost," while exploring Shasta.

    The reports of the cedar trees on the way to Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies tell of trees the size of redwoods. Read the account of the surveyor looking for a route for the rialroad, "The Impossible Railway: The Building of the Canadian Pacific [Pierre Berton]."

    We have less than 10% of our redwoods, logged out by greed. If the state had not stopped hydraulic mining, SF Bay would be a big mud puddle.

    These forests are our legacy, they belong to our future generations, and it is time to put a stop to this wanton destruction.

  94. Yep, America's forests are being clear-cut and the processed lumber sold to Asia.

  95. Extractive industry bring out the worst in people and thusly it must be regulated strictly.

  96. A article to the point with credible information that pinpoints the disaster, although tragic but still something that should have never happened. Except for the greed creed logging leaving through willful negligence a not only a huge scar but a very costly loss of life and property. One has to wonder what purpose will serve to rebuilt the community in the same spot.

  97. There is also a cruel irony in this disaster. Many rural Washingtonians are conservative and have little use for government regulation, restrictions on property rights and excessive taxation and spending. Now that the disaster struck we hear cries that the initial disaster response may have been delayed and inadequate and that people weren't warned of the potential risks. You get the government you vote for and are willing to pay for.
    Meanwhile, support and pray for the brave rescuers going in to this dangerous area. The initial emergecy response was correct in assessing the unknown risks to rescuers.
    This disaster also serves as a reminder for the very real and potentially disastrous mudflows and lahars that could emanate from Mount Rainier and bury whole communities. There are community awareness and preparedness plans. If you can have this in Orting, Washington, then why not Oso?

  98. Tim Egan is right.

    Logging on hillsides has dangerously increased the instability of our slopes. But people want to live in too many of these places so the land use people are pressured into saying OK to build permits.

    It's the same with folks (and there are many) who live close to our beautiful rivers and streams. Springtime comes, the snow on the mountains melts and what happens when it combines with the spring rains--the rivers and river valleys flood. In some cases, it's more than a yearly event; it happens at least twice during our long spring. And do they learn when their homes are flooded and leave? Too often no; they just pay their flood insurance premiums (they have to purchase flood insurance to get a mortgage) complaining about the cost while they rebuild or just wait for everything to dry out.

    Why live in places like Oso and on the (functional) floodplain? Land there is cheap. At least it's initially cheap. But the cost in the long run (does anyone think that way anymore?) can be staggering.

  99. Another factor (at a global level) is the environmental damage caused by overpopulation. Water will become in short supply (even in this country, as cities like Las Vegas and LA continue to expand), and who knows what may happen in, e.g., the Middle East.

  100. Oh but we DO know what will happen, just not yet the when and the what will trigger it.
    One could write a book about the evidence accumulating under our noses. We see one of four scenarios:
    The favoured one [by the 1%] is the "head in the sand". The second one is the 'Hit a brick wall" catastrophe. The third one is the "Technological fix"
    The fourth one is the "Transitional" society. Something we are overdue to get going if we want to continue our civilization's survival into the 22nd century.
    If we don't get our fingers out good old Nature will take us through it.
    It will be a wild ride!

  101. "The land was ours before we were the lands'". Robert Frost, 'The Gift Outright'

    We become the land in the worst possible ways. We lack the mindset to humble ourselves collectively while we cast blame on individuals engaging the gears of growth when we all follow the imperative of growth as a collective goal. The big earth/small man paradigm will never be applied as a deliberate concerted way of living. We could have discovered earth Jesus instead of man Jesus and had life everlasting on earth. Empires just would not have it.

  102. And the populated areas, too, in the city where people have been allowed to build on scenic hillsides, regardless of the warnings about the possibility of devastating slides. Or on our ocean beaches, where protective dunes have been destroyed. Foes of government regulations build and then want public monies to bail them out when disaster strikes.

  103. Thanks for your clear-eyed account of our collective delusion that puts the blame for this loss of life right where it belongs.

    I am still surprised whenever people are permitted to cut down trees along the bluffs above the Chesapeake Bay, citing "rights of private property," so the "owners" can have a view and perhaps a lawn, which then leads to more silting, more erosion of the cliffs, more fertilizer in the bay, and ultimately less private property for them over time. Where does private end and public begin?

    What can we do when private pursuits and public officials' tacit collusion with it (such as logging companies that profit from poor forestry practices like clear cutting and tacitly co-opt local people who need and love the work), continue to saw off the branch we all sit on?

    I fear delusion will out until it's too late, on the local and global scale.

  104. It's all about money. No one cares about the people. Big business is all about the money. Look at the oil spills, big business. Look at Bangladesh all about the profits. Greed.

  105. Dont forget to thank the Gipper for his iconic and very irresponsible contribution to America's continuing refusal to face up to our problems,"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help!" With people still believing in lousy leadership like that, plus those subscribing to their faith-based ignorance of reality, we're bound to have more heart crushing, preventable tragedies.

  106. Right, William, to remind us of this very appropriate symbol of the arrogance of ignorance, and to highlight perhaps his most familiar quotation. Here's another from him, uttered when he was still governor of your state: "When you've seen one redwood you've seen 'em all." Reagan was never in fact anything but pure myth. "The Gipper" indeed, a character in a B movie played by a good-looking young man with nice hair and a soft voice. So the actor becomes conflated with the screen character and goes on to be transformed into a toxic, ever-present myth that sticks to America even today like that oily slime that fouls seabirds whenever there is an oil spill. George Gipp himself was a mythical character, created by Hollywood, a part-time student at best who picked up extra money as a ringer for various football squads and died of pneumonia after being found passed out drunk in a snow drift, allegedly. But this is America sir, ...print the legend. Pete McGuire, Atlanta

  107. There are legal limits on logging on federal land? Get working Republicans! I'm sure there are millions of campaign bucks to be made slashing funds for enforcement!

  108. See the article on what Scott Walker is doing to Wisconsin in this issue of the NYT for clues

  109. Boomer-made America strikes again: "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's ALL small stuff."

  110. Who would have known that the clearcutting of the NW, which began when most boomer's grandparents weren't even born yet would be our fault? Maybe we can add Boomer Derangement Syndrome to Obama Derangement Syndrome as another disease of the right wing?

  111. Once again we see that "job killing regulations" may not be such a bad thing after all. Consider recent events of toxic chemicals in water, toxic ash in water, etc.

    It is amazing how often people vote against their self interest. Perhaps it is Darwin at work again.....

  112. You wrote of the Dust Bowl as a similar tragedy of human denial. I grew up in Elkhart and Boise City, which you call the center of the dust bowl. There is again a drought in the area, farmers are pumping the Ogallala Aquifer to depletion, and the dust is blowing again. When will they ever learn?

  113. NO, to answer your question

  114. How can the residents claim they didn't know this might happen? Seriously. I don't get it.

  115. Two words: American exceptionalism.
    We are raised with the assumption, so ingrained we don't even think about it, that we win every war, we're always right, God loves us and so should everyone else, every family ends up happy before the last commercial break, and disasters are what we watch happening on TV to other people. We also believe that we can buy insurance against every possible bad outcome. And if all else fails we run the film backward. And all's for the best in this best of all possible worlds.
    That's why we're always gobsmacked when it doesn't go according to script - when terrorists who've been loudly promising mayhem for decades finally succeed in bringing down buildings, when the HIV test comes back positive and our scientists don't find a miracle cure, when the economy crashes, when God doesn't stop the mudslide, when Superman or Spider-Man or Captain Kirk or whoever doesn't show up in the last reel to save the day. We're left stupefied with nothing but our sense of entitlement, demanding 'how can this happen to me? don't they know who i am?!'

  116. Tim, you seem at odds with yourself. You saw that logging destabilized the slopes above Oso, but then you say that it's not the fault of the loggers that the earth moved. Maybe it's no one's fault, maybe they all just had a great notion to jump in the mudslide and suffocate, as Ken Kesey might say. You don't believe that, and no one else should either. Say it decisively: Oso is the price we pay for living at odds with nature instead of striving for a stable relationship with it.

  117. Reading this 'cause and effect', especially with its culminating paragraph about the great Dust Bowl, I was expecting a comment about the largest environmental denial in the history of the world; the human cause of global warming. The average Joe on the street now accepts its reality, yet from the business men contributing, to the politicians in their pockets on down preventing meaningful change, to all the folks happily driving big cars, no one is prepared to sacrifice their immediate gratifications and benefits to do anything about it. So... you want to see the real "nobody saw it coming"... just wait.

  118. You need to let trees mature in the forest, die in the forest, and decay in the forest. About half the ecological cycle of any natural forest takes place in the process of decay, and the organisms that depend on it. That's why the ivory billed woodpecker went extinct. It was uniquely dependent on newly-dead mature trees. When the big trees in the river bottoms were logged, that was it for the ivory bill. But of course many other flora and fauna that depend on the decay half of the cycle are not so charismatic. Current forestry practices are extirpating those without anyone noticing.

  119. Excellent comment.

  120. Wood is seen as a commodity in the northwest and elsewhere. Almost all the homes in western Washington are made of wood. Oregon and Washington also export wood products to Asia. It's big business and most of the residents along Hwy 530 where the slide took place were employed in logging.

  121. Do commercial insurance companies cover damage from events such as this or will they call it an act of God and deny payment?

    When people build in flood plains or on barrier islands mortgage lenders require flood insurance. Commercial insurance carriers will not insure against floods so the only source of insurance is FEMA flood insurance which is underpriced so everyone subsidizes those who build in flood prone areas. If the true cost of such events had to be borne by those who own the property I would expect to see more people paying attention to risks.

  122. Yes, removal of a forest from a slope underlain by the unconsolidated material shown in the David Ryder photograph increases the probability of slope failure.

    If no studies were made of this slope prior to the 2006 landslide (see photo in the original article) then we can only speculate on the role of clear cutting in contributing to that landslide.

    There is another possible factor, the removal of material on the convex bank of the river meander. Such removal increases the probability of slope failure as a geotechnical analysis could have shown.

    We need to see a series of vertical aerial photographs documenting the clear cutting, the meander migration, and the construction of homes to see some of the possible interactions - can someone provide them?

    But whatever that history, once the 2006 landslide had occurred, the land up-slope from the scarp (see photo) was doomed to further failure. Geotechnical analysis should have been carried out and ground water monitoring wells should have been put in place (good example for Rochesterians e.g. Mancuroc, the I 490 landslide in Pittsford).

    Even if none of this was done, it is evident that Mr. Pennington must have turned a blind eye to the 2006 landslide. To make the statement he made, given the message from the 2006 slide should be grounds for removal.

    LL who often used the I 490 landslide (created by undercutting of an existing slope) to teach University of Rochester students what Mr. Pennington never was taught.

  123. This, my 3d try at adding information that geotechnical analysis of such slopes can be done and should have been done follows 2 earlier (one on the original article and one here). Both were apparently rejected even though they were purely science-based, so the present comment is only part of the story.

    If I were teaching environmental geology at a college or university closest to this landslide I would have my students acquire the vertical aerial photographs of this part of the river to study the changes made by man (cutting down the forest, building homes and other structures) and those made by nature (river meander history, the 2006 landslide, others?).

    Then with that in hand they might ask for the documentation of monitoring of the ground water regime on that slope using a system like that at the I 490 landslide. I believe that the NY State DOT then installed a system of wells and troughs to reduce pore water pressure at this landslide. Otherwise the I 490 slide might have failed once again. Have not been back so just assume it has never failed again.

  124. "The folks who live there ... show up in force at public hearings where government and environmentalists are denounced with venom. It’s not their fault that the earth moved, certainly. But they should insist that their public officials tell them the plain truth when the science is bad news."

    Living in North Carolina--I've dealt with the non-transplanted version of the folks Mr. Egan is referencing in that paragraph.

    I can state with confidence that those folks have zero in the "truth", plain or otherwise. And when "the science is bad news"--they reject the science.

    These are the folks who turned over control of the state government to a retrograde gang that passed a law banning the state from basing coastal development policies on scientific predictions about rising sea levels--because doing that would inconvenience developers.

    The same folks who elected a governor who directed the state's environmental protection agency to become "more customer friendly"--and then defined their "customers" as being the polluters they're supposed to be regulating.

    I'd be willing to bet money that the transplants out there are absolutely convinced that the timber mills their grandpappies served went "bust" because of "pesky scientists" and "intrusive government."

  125. Uh, let's see . . . . We have an infrastructure across the country that is deteriorating for want of repair, but a massive public works program remains an anathema to to many in the business class and politicians of both major parties. On the other hand, in even a tepid economy the insistence on "growth" as the engine of job creation is such that we will not reign in a logging industry that clearly threatens the environment and now human life. This tragedy is one in a series of incidents whose message we ignore at our peril: We can save unbridled capitalism or we can save the planet and the human race. We cannot do both.

  126. Some years ago, I heard David Montgomery, a professor of Earth Sciences at U. Washington, lecture about precisely this sort of problem in precisely this area. Clearly the lumber companies and their puppets in the state and federal government are culpable here. Only a fool or a criminal would clearcut on a slope over 10-15˚ above a settled area, highway and stream, and only a criminally negligent government would permit that. Clearcuts on hillsides are an invitation to catastrophe.

  127. Making money removes all bars to rational behavior. Always has and always will be such a bar. It may be gorgeous today and deadly next year but why worry about next year.

  128. Remember the butter commercial from a few years back.
    "You can't mess with Mother Nature."

  129. "it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature." And it was for margerine.

  130. No 'with' - it was 'it's not nice to fool Mother Nature,' spoken by the angry goddess after she tastes the product and mistakes it for butter.
    Nature is a great mother but a lousy nanny and a messy housekeeper.

  131. Corporate greed, workers desperate for jobs, corrupt politicians, willful ignorance up and down the economic and social and political scale are all alive and well. More and more people will be crushed by these forces, if not by a mountain of mud.

  132. It isn't always corrupt politicians, although some well may be. Sometimes it's local officials who don't have the resources to fight developers and their deep pockets. Another reason could be pressure from citizens who as soon as they hear the word "jobs" are willing to go along with anything. And there is the always popular method of painting it as "big government telling us what to do."

  133. Want to talk about "global warming," anybody?

  134. So it is for the marine fishermen who rage against the government scientists trying to restore fishery stocks with quotas or shut seasons - they show up with rage and vitriol and block the necessary remediation - and when the fishery goes bust they blame the government for not having done more. Whether it is ranchers using government grazing lands, loggers moving across a continent to wipe out a new forest, or Republicans in their gated communities gobbling up an ever higher percentage of the free capital, we are Rapa Nui before the tipping point writ large.

  135. As I understand it, there has been a substantial slide in the area about once every ten years since 1949 and the area in which the mudslide occurred is known locally as Slide Hill.

    You point out a statement by a local official: “This was a completely unforeseen slide,” said John Pennington, the emergency manager of Snohomish County. “It was considered very safe.”

    What utter nonsense. If journalists like you fail to do their homework and challenge such statement immediately and effectively government can never be held to account.

    Local government has issued at least twenty years worth of building permits in the slide area and it desperately needs to coverup its blunder.

  136. This is exactly the same psychological phenomenon described by Paul Orfitt in his 3/27 Op Ed about the measles vaccine. People are so swayed by a philosophy (anti government, anti vaccine, anti environmental etc) that they are blind to science. Some social scientist should find a way to acknowledge and then work to overcome this kind of mentality. Obviously, rational argument and evidence are not working. What kind of public information campaign could work with human biases?

  137. So refreshing to read some "plain truth" about this horrible disaster. I listen to Canadian radio ("As It Happens") & heard an interview last week with a Native American woman whose home & friends were destroyed by the mud slide. When asked why she thought this happened, she said it was all the clear cutting they do, & her people had been trying to warn officials for years. To make it worse, they allowed recent development where it should not have been allowed she said.

    On American mainstream media I have heard no emphasis and mostly no mention of the problem of clear cutting contributing to the Big mud slide, and absolutely no mention of over development in the area.

    Where I live in central New York, we are fighting a land developer who wants to cut down a woods near our neighborhood & build hundreds of homes. In a 1980s agreement, the woods was designated "forever wild" & "to be left in its natural state." But the developer claims he never knew the woods were protected, & the Town said it had no documentation on the 1980s decision.

    Acting on our own, we neighbors have pieced together copies of the documents, found witnesses there at the time of the decision, hired a topographer who confirmed the land is fragile karst topography that if drilled, blasted, or trees cut could lead to flooding, sinkholes, etc. It cost us plenty. The Town finally joined us, but the developer sued & lost 4 times. We spent a fortune, which is part of his plan.

    The deck is stacked--Citizens=0

  138. Bravo, kudos, bless you and your neighbors for fighting back.

  139. 'The Town finally joined us, but the developer sued & lost 4 times. We spent a fortune, which is part of his plan.'

    This is how all corporations get what they want. We're going through it now in my suburban hometown with regard to both a hospital expansion and a plan for high-density townhouses, as well as a faction that wants to turn our natural sandbottom swimming lake into a paved pool. Residents have organised to fight all these, and I side with them in each of these instances but I'm resigned: they are big and rich, we are small and comparatively poor, and they don't really care how much they spend - we will run out of money and drop from exhaustion while they can just lawyer us into the ground.

  140. Pompeii and Herculaneum... The Mississippi flood plain... NOLA and the erosion of the Gulf coast. Tim Egan is right. Only chicken Little listens, and the rest of us go on living on the spot marked X. I'm archiving the words "wildfire, earthquake, tornado, flooding, drought, hurricane or yet-to-be-defined and climate-change-influenced superstorm." Thanks Tim.

  141. "No one could have predicted"

    How many times have we heard that about repeatedly warned or well-predicted catastrophes since 2001--infrastructural, environmental, terrorist? It's starting to look like a pretty good candidate for our national epitaph.

  142. Interesting to note that Georgia-Pacific is a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, Inc. Enough said.

  143. Yes, the same brothers, one of whom, David, is bankrolling a major plaza renovation at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. A recent article in Artnet called for a boycott of the Museum until the Met refuses Koch's offer. I suggest, as a better plan, that as many NY'ers as possible go to the Met and "choose" to donate 15 cents as their entry fee, telling the attendant that they will pay full price once the connection with Koch is erased.

  144. Certainly the earthquake in Alaska was not caused by humans, but the land built upon adjacent to Cook Inlet in Anchorage, which is mostly silt, was thought to be a very dangerous place to build. This is the area which was gobbled up in this earthquake. After this awesome and horrific earthquake, everyone was warned about building in this region again, but the building began with some of the most expensive properties built in the area of Turnagain Arm. So, not only do humans not look at human caused tragedies, we also do not look at areas with well known risks for tragedy such as Turnagain Arm, coastal properties, riverfront properties, mud slide prone and fire prone areas. And now with climate change, one of the most significant risks we humans face across the world, and barely a flutter of change. At a time when we need to institute dramatic changes in how and what kind of energy we use and how we live, we instead have a ramping up of extracting fossil fuels at higher rates than ever, along with massive use of water, the discharge of toxic wastes into our streams and water tables. We are all facing the 6th extinction of our planet, even this does not change our ways.

  145. I remember reading an article way back in the '60s or 70s (after Hurricane Betsy, 1965) by the great Princeton journalist, John McPhee. He wrote about the levees around New Orleans with interviews of many of the figures responsible in his day - city officials, oil companies, USCGS, US Army Corps of Engineers, et al. It seemed obvious to him that anybody curious enough to enquire would come to the conclusion that with the carving of Delta channels for oil tankers and the destruction of the marshlands, coupled with levees incapable of withstanding a major storm surge, New Orleans was unlikely to survive a whopper hurricane in the Gulf. Then along comes Hurricane Katrina which the American Society of Civil Engineers has called "the greatest engineering catastrophe in U.S. history". I suppose it's only fitting that the American taxpayer should foot the bill for this .... after all, we got our oil. But to call it an "Act of God" is ludicrous. "God" didn't have anything to do with it. She's the one who gave us the sand barriers and marshlands which we destroyed in our thirst for petroleum. When I read about the rage that Timothy Egan talks about in his article that the good people of the Stillaguamish Valley felt agains the "pesky scientists" and "environmentalist nags" who warned of disaster from "excessive logging" it reminded me of that comment of Yogi Berra's: "Deja vu all over again". Will we ever learn? Nope. Not likely.

  146. This kind of man-made disaster is quite common in developing countries where government legislation/controls are quite lax. In January 2011, for example, floods and mudslides caused 903 deaths in relatively wealthy towns located in a mountainous region near Rio de Janeiro.

    The same tragedy happening in a small community along the Stillaguamish river in Washington State comes as no surprise after hurricane Katrina's fiasco in 2005.

    That preventable Washington State tragedy enhances overseas perception of incompetence by US public authorities. US government authorities are increasingly behaving like a third world country.

  147. If MY government gives a warning NOT to go and inhabit a location and an American defies that....please be sure NOT to use MY tax dollars to rescue these people. Period.

  148. Of course those who deplore what they see as government infringement on their property rights demand taxpayer dollars and endangering of emergency responders to rescue them from their own recklessness.

  149. Frankly, I am mystified that the standard of care, i.e., government regulations, given to those wishing to build homes in "flood zones" or "floodplains" is not also imposed upon those wishing to build in areas plagued with over-logging, over-building and environmental harm that lead to soil failure on a grand scale. Perhaps insurance companies will someday stop insuring homes that will one day require a bailout when the surrounding forests catch fire or simply wash away down mountainsides--you know, things all taxpayers have to pay for when others do not exercise due care when building their "dreamhomes."

  150. Irony of course is that the most virulent anti-environmentalists, anti-government, NO NOTHINGS are found in rural areas. Just an act of God for those folks.

  151. The construction and real estate industries should share some of the guilt for this.

  152. As I read all the comments negative to logging, especially clear cut, I couldn't help but think about how we now have a reality TV show making stars out of the loggers. Now we need to keep logging to keep the show going.

    Similar treatment for people ripping up the land looking for gold.

  153. This reminds me of a similar event that occurred in South Carolina in the 1970s. A Christian summer camp had been warned for years about an unsafe dam on their property up above them in the hills. When the dam burst killing many their answer was simple.

    It was God's will.

  154. It is poor form to say "I told you so," but Egan does have an important point in this commentary. The wet parts of the Pacific Northwest are always in slow motion. A highway realignment near Eddyville in western Oregon collapsed (literally) after many millions of dollars of infrastructure was already built: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2012/09/ill-f.... The reason was that the entire substrate of a series of hills would not stop shifting. The Oso tragedy is another example. The most devastating image I've seen of that area above Steelhead Drive is actually the Google Maps satellite image of that neighborhood BEFORE the slide. You can see the scar of previous slides above the neighborhood: https://www.google.ca/maps/place/Steelhead+Dr/@48.2782556,-121.84354,212...!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x5485374c1da16613:0xaeac517a3b686ce9. It was always only a matter of when, not if.

  155. Dean Swift couldn't have penned a better missive. Well played JET3

  156. Obviously, the cause of this disaster is a shortage of guns. If red-blooded freedom lovers in the State of Washington had, and used, a lot more weaponry, the trees would never have been illegally logged as the criminals would have killed each other off fighting over the trees.

    Now here in the urban setting (Newark, NJ) the widespread availability of automatic pistols means that our drug peddlers keep their population somewhat in check by culling themselves. Of course, things would be better here as well with more (automatic) guns.

    Had Wall Street used concealed weapons to settle their internal problems (rather than use lawyers to file lawsuits that take years to have an effect) it is likely that our economic meltdown of 2007 would never have happened, and full employment would be ours today.

    The bottom line is that whether we are looking at rural Washington, New York City, or urban New Jersey, the law is unable to control our criminals. Indeed, partly due to the Republican Party, laws to control criminal/anti-social activity are unenforced, or even fail to exist. Our only hope is the success of the NRA to fill our air with hot lead!

  157. We build and we plunder. We multiply exponentially. Greed inevitably over whelms prudence. We arrogantly presume that we are the gods of earth.

    Today our numbers and our technology empower us to actually threaten the vital balance of the planet’s amazing ecosystem.

    There are consequences. The planet will not falter for our sake.

    As for Oso, it is a genuine tragedy for those who were unwittingly caught up in the consequences of the denial of a catastrophic risk that others profited from.

  158. Certified "safe" environments kill more people than terrorists. Name the government and corporate engineers and officials who certified the logging at the top of the hill. It's time to put faces on bad decisions that leave death and destruction.

  159. Logging and the development of mountain areas sometimes brought catastrophes all over the world. In 1982 huge land slides occurred by heavy rain in Nagasaki city, Japan. That disaster left 299 people dead or missing. Most of victims lived near mountain areas which had been developed by logging. It is necessary for us to share the information of the causes of disasters so that we can learn how dangerous the development of maintain areas without method.

  160. Agree. And there IS a place for government, who has the geological information that the counties will not subscribe to, or purchase. Logging is the major reason for this tragedy. Sadly, most of the folks who lived there, even if they know the risks, which they did not, because land use and the builders certainly were not going to tell them…Added to that is the ever present thought, "it can't happen here." A very sad and preventable, not Act of God, but Inaction of local government, contributed to this tragedy.

  161. One possible to stop this creation of environmental risk is denial of insurance. The development of safety codes over the past century has been driven not by 'big government', but instead by insurance companies' refusal to insure things that don't meet certain standards. The insurance companies need to get more active on these environmental risks. Being large businesses, they can't be accused of being 'big government' wacko enviromentalists, and they heve the cash to play by the rules of today's politics, by buying politicians and media coverage. Fight fire with fire.

  162. Born and raised ranching in the Colorado high country, I can directly attest that we live in an awesome and deadly world. Snow slides off mountains. -40F kills. The wind can drive freezing rain/snow into you like bullets. We all knew that winter kills and if things were too dry that fire came with summer.

    There was a winter rescue of a family that had stupidly ignored weather reports and common sense. The media turned it into a circus extolling their bravery and fortitude. A neighbor - he seemed as old as time to me as a youngster - spat and said, "Stupid ----. Like it wasn't gona snow in November."

    Winter will come. The earth will move. This extraordinary earth will change abruptly and without the least concern for any species. The vast majority of Americans now live in digitally enhanced "cones of ignorance." We as a species have savaged our world. It will right the balance.

    The wise man knows this. He reduces his impact, stays alert, makes choices based upon all the information available - but he knows this is a deadly place.

    I feel sorrow for Oso. It is much like the town down in valley where I went to school. Everybody was connected to everybody - even those we didn't like. And saddest of all there will be no going home again - ever - in Oso.

  163. The old timer quoted above sounded like my dad, a genuine Montana cowboy, who worked on the ranch of my great-grandfather, north of Gardiner, MT prior to the second world war. My dad taught us to be prepared for the world, and to be thoughtful and respective of what the surrounding environment could do for you-and to you. These lessons have been carried over to my own children, and most have taken them to heart. This deliberate, and willful ignorance of scientific finding, to placate the great god market is a death trap. You see it everywhere today. You see the warning signs not only in the environment, but in the business/investment world, with the same political chicanary and greed, and cowerdice. I wonder what the next disaster will be.

  164. It was good advice then and now. Too many people are disconnected from place -- Americans move around a lot and often don't fully understand the environment around them. As Egan notes, it is too often in the interest of developers and realtors to make sure the risk remain unknown. In our part of the world, it's the person who buys a house on the Outer Banks and then is shocked by the unrelenting shoreline erosion that cuts off road access and then threatens the home.

  165. Richard, I too grew up in a rural part of MT and it wasn't so much we were told about the dangers around us as it was we just watched and learned. Then I spent decades alone mapping soils in the middle of nowhere. No way to communicate. One knew he had to be able to survive and deal with problems.

    And I've seen landslides in so many places I couldn't count them. They always had at least 3 things in common: Unstable soils/geologic material, something that destabilized the slope, and a period of significantly more rain than normal. The destabilizing factors can be natural or man made. Fires, logging, even over grazing. Sometimes people cut a road across the toe of the slope. Sometimes it just happens due to extra rain.

  166. Mr. Egan, you always hit the nail on the head with the issues affecting the West. I grew up in New Mexico and as kids, we knew enough to stay out of the arroyos when it rained. They flooded. We watched as homes were built in those same areas. Now we see wildfires devastate the region year and year, not to mention floods, mudslides, etc. Developers sell homes to people who insist on living in areas without heeding the warnings of those that understand the risks of living in certain environments. At the same time, my heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones.

  167. One note -- the Tarheels were invited to these vallleys (along with Ridgerunners from Tennessee) in the early part of the 20th century to bust IWW unions ("Wobblies") working as loggers and miners in western Washington. Part of the reason they were recruited was their strong antipathy to government laws and regulations. Although the big lumber companies (e.g. Weyerhauser) have decamped for other areas, the gaps have been filled by "gyppo" loggers who have little incentive to reduce profits by obeying regs in the privately owned forests. So it goes.

  168. Thanks for the clarification. The consequences seem much the same: willful ignorance, extraordinary ecological damage, human death and disaster. Borderline treason to serve the voracious minority and the uberwealthy.
    Be nice if the dems could come up with a number of candidates who have what it takes to start turning this country around. it has been a long time.

  169. The thing that conservatives like to tell you about extractive industries is that they deliver good paying jobs. And given how thousands line up today for applications to flip burgers at full time poverty wages, these easily duped people can be excused for ignoring the dangers to themselves, their loved ones, their communities, for the chance to earn high 5 figures at jobs that kill them and anything or anyone else involved.

    What conservatives never explain is what happens to these high paying extractive industry jobs once the materials are extracted. Then we see how the profits are privatized and the costs socialized and the effect this has on these now poor, sickly, hopeless, easily duped persons left broken, waiting for an application to flip burgers at full time poverty wages.

    "It's Obama's fault," they will say. Or Nancy Pelosi's or Harry Reid's or Barney Franks'

  170. Awhile back the NYT had a photo feature of a landscape full of weird, moonscapy-looking mounds left behind after the mineral extractors had finished with the red state. Kansas, I think.

  171. "Yes, but who wants to listen to warnings by pesky scientists, to pay heed to predictions by environmental nags, or allow an intrusive government to limit private property rights?"
    Right on. The same kind of thinking applies to global warming and fracking. Maybe we can have some foresight in addition to hindsight, for a change, and act based on long-term thinking instead of short-term profit.

  172. When I read this, it persuasively confirmed my own worst fears--that humans had caused this environmental disaster, that officials had softpedaled its likelihood of occurring, and that the Oso residents had ignored the obvious dangers and put themselves into harm's way. The cruel arithmetic of this disaster will go unheeded as people live in the middle of Western forests and hillsides, ignoring the twin and related dangers of fire and periodic floods, in the service of great views, home values, and privacy. Then they expect us all to insure these assumed risks, and rebuild with our support when the disaster inevitably occurs. The gorgeous West coast especially invites this form of willful blindness, as Oakland hills and Laguna Beach testify--where residents rebuilt with even larger homes after the predictable fires took their homes.

    Many of these people act as if their situations are not ours, when their folly is so predictable and where the economic liability fall on all of us. I mourn their passing, but beg the many others to get out of harm's way. The funeral bell tolls for all of us.

  173. One of the most consistent attributes of the strident proponents of “private property rights” who literally “live off the land” as they engage in extractive industries (logging, mining, oil and gas recovery, ranching, etc.) is their unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions. Thus, despoiled and denuded landscapes, air and water pollution, subsidence, and toxic waste sites are viewed as “necessary social costs” that are pushed onto society as a whole instead of onto the small groups who profit from the extractions. It is not that these industries are unnecessary, rather the issues remain, as they have always been, properly regulating these industries to insure that those who profit are responsible for their own costs.

  174. "The people living near Oso say nobody ever informed them of the past predictions."

    Of course not. Someone wanted to sell them something, to make money off of them. The truth might have gotten in the way of their profit.

  175. What a surprise. "No one could have predicted"--the motto of the Bush Administration.

  176. I thought it was interesting to learn in the news this week that the recent logging that was done was first not approved...then, it was approved. Was there a payment made to a politician's or several politicians' campaigns? (Good lord, we need to get money out of politics.) Well, after it was approved, a larger swath than was given was clear-cut precipitating this avalanche. You can only hope for lawsuits to stop these destructive acts.

  177. The picture in the article, and the 2012 picture published a few days ago, show no logging around the slide. They do show a recent previous slide, as do maps. It should have been obvious that this area was unstable, and nothing should have been built down hill from it, even across the river valley.

  178. There is logging just above the slide in 2003 and 2005--clearcuts. Then in 2006 the mudslide changed the course of the river and moved it closer to the settlement. There is a video on U-Tube that shows the history through google maps pictures.

  179. Mr. Egan, thank you for a brilliant piece.
    NYT, whatever your paying Egan, it is not enough.

  180. Who will pay for such irresponsibility? Will we the people get whacked with FEMA bills and subsidized flood / muslide insurance?

  181. Are you really expecting the logging corporation and its investors to be responsible, when incorporating today translates to avoiding responsibility? Go to any business school to find the answers.

  182. Tim Egan writes so clearly -- the Dust Bowl, huge forest fires and all sorts of things in the past, including this awful mudslide. Really I would also encourage him to write about evils and dangers in the present and the near future: oil spills, fracking, warming and pollution.

  183. Yes, and the potential death of the planet through pollution of our fresh water sources from strip mining and fracking. Look at what is about to happen in Wisconsin due to Scott Walker's love affair with the "developers" and mining industry. For 700 jobs he is willing to trash the fresh water sources of The Great Lakes.

  184. One hopes that Oso inhabitants were all profiting from the logging industry.

  185. A family was killed in Douglas County Oregon in the 90s when the timber industry refused to quit clear cutting above their property in the woods. They knew it was dangerous but every cent they had was invested in the house and property. They tried to get the logging stopped and couldn't.

    Google Sue and Ric Moon. The logging company and state had even gotten a report saying that the clear cutting above their house could cause "vast mud sliding" shortly before the disaster but didn't pass the warning to the home owners.

  186. Read Egan's "The Big Burn" or McPhee's "The Control of Nature," for some food for thought.

  187. Thank you, Timothy Egan. And now for the next disaster. Keep an eye on
    and watch for frakking earthquakes in OK. Some days these compare with quakes in CA where we get ours naturally. And what will be the contribution to Western water shortages (remember the Dust Bowl) when the underground water is contaminated? Quick, what's the slang phrase for death by thirst?

  188. I hope the NY Times will keep investigating what led to this disaster. For instance, one of the presumed dead is a man named Thom Satterlee, who apparently led a movement called the Freedom County Movement that was a backlash against the Growth Management Act -- because he and others believed the government shouldn't be able to restrict land use or where people lived. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/deadly-mudslide/mudslide-victim-wanted-... .The Oso mudslide is a tragedy but it is also a prime example of what can happen when people treat government and science as the enemy and don't accept sensible regulation of their activities. There should never have been houses built on the Steelhead Haven land, and I'd like to know who owned it when it was subdivided in 1960, after several large mudslides. And why was residential construction permitted there after the 2006 mudslide? And how did the residents who wanted no part of "government" rationalize the massive taxpayer dollars spent then to restore private property that should never have had houses on it? What will be spent now to allow them to rebuild, and who is a "taker" now?

  189. “This was a completely unforeseen slide,” said John Pennington, the emergency manager of Snohomish County. “It was considered very safe.” My question is "Did Snohomish County look to hire someone this dumb as their emergency manager or was he the only applicant for the job?" This slide occurred on a site with a history of slides. Like the mine owners who disregard safety precautions and refuse to take responsibility for the resulting deaths, this guy couldn't even figure out that this was a dangerous location. At the very least he should have been warning people of the dangers of their location throughout the years. Given the western emphasis on property rights, it might not have worked but it certainly is the responsibility of the county government to inform people of natural hazards in their community.

  190. All Pennington and the people who lived there had to do was to look at google earth maps to see the trees sliding down the hillside, progressively. It looks, from the map pics, that they should have been able to see the trees sliding with the naked eye, and the ridge where the ground was breaking away. Also, the river was becoming more and more silted from the run off from the hills. This was no accident. Clear cutting and human folly and human choice to live in a area that was clearly marked for disaster--of course, there were many poor victims who were just passing through....

  191. It's been a long week on the East Coast, so today was my first chance to study the story, the graphics, the landscape. (Amazing pre and post maps and pictures, and stories here in this publication, one that I deride continually, but where is the news better? Nowhere.) I noticed the trees have no deep roots at the edge of the new cliff. I wonder if old growth could have held this slope better than the existing (no longer) newer conifers. I look out my window and see wet land, there is no threat of mudslide due to topography. Unless that mountain way out there...no, couldn't happen. I read of a man pulling his sister's lifeless body from a buried car and retrieving a packet of honey from her glove box as a memento. Somewhere between the vitriol of a town meeting and the necessity of home, our powerless humanity and our powerful humanity, our landscapes and our faults ...is just us. You write well, thank you.

  192. Tim, this could have been foretold longer than 25 years ago. Although I lived in Southern California, I spent a lot of time with my late buddy Bob all along the Stlly, through Oso, Concrete and all those other great little towns, fly fishing for salmon and the occasional steelhead. This was from 1980 to the late '90s, and the logging was incredible even then. And you're spot on. Once the trees are gone, the mountains start sliding. The slides were smaller in those days, tho.

  193. As we roll along on our present course -- i.e., no plan or method for penetrating our denial of what we are doing to our home (not to mention the indifference of the nihilists) -- these horrors will become common. Thanks to the way we have chosen to use technology, we can watch the whole thing on our phones. I wonder what Shakespeare would do with our tragedies.

  194. This utube video with the googleearth maps is truly the full story on the mudslide. It has been happening since the first clearcut in 2003. Not an "act of god" but, clearly, an act of human folly. That the residents of OSO were unaware of this, especially following the landslide of 2006 that changed the course of the river, is hard to fathom. Surely they must have suspected something. The water was muddy, the trees were sliding down the hillside....

  195. In Arizona last year 19 firefighters were killed while engaging a raging wildfire. The loss is insurmountable and the recriminations and lawsuits abound. The fundamental question remains, in Arizona, in Washington, on the banks of the Mississippi and other venues where nature and humanity attempt to co-exist...what is the responsibility of the people who choose to live in high risk areas and why do we as a society continue to allow it? The resulting loss of life to residents and responders seems too high a price to pay for getting back to nature. That can be accomplished without living like Thoreau.

  196. Jobs and profits are more important than even life.

    The calculus is very straight forward, squeeze as much income now, let later generations deal with the consequences.

    Yes, capitalism is an engine that drives our economy. Unrestrained capitalism is the engine that thieves from our future. It is a greedy, mindless beast that survives primarily because we have short memories, huge appetites, and the urgency of now.

  197. It is a beast that, while not being starved, definitely needs a diet.

  198. This piece portrays a classic environmentalist view, that a deep societal ill exists and that somehow, somewhere, we are always responsible for "Acts of God". It is largely fact free and elitist. As well noted, mudslides have been occurring here for 10,000 or more years, long before logging was a factor. Yes, a small sliver of the permitted harvest may have extended in to the sensitive area ten years ago. Precious little evidence exists that the two factors correlate in any meaningful way. Yet, the article then moves on to an unwarranted diatribe against logging. Then, somehow, Appalachian culture is brought into the picture, as if that has anything to do with the tragedy. If the author were to bother to look back at Appalachia, he would find a robust healthy and growing forest resource, irrespective of its logging history.

    In retrospect, it is always easy to see things clearly enough to find convenient scapegoats.

  199. In one bothers to look back at Appalachia, it's mountain clearing( trees, soil, and rock) , that gets ones attention. But, of course, that operation has no man made ill effects ; they're all due to God, rain and gravity .

  200. Large scale human manipulation of the terrain is not causation as the writer spews, but instead the hubris factor of constantly putting man ahead of nature and the cyclical yet unpredictable natural movement of the earth’s surface. The problem remains with the writer’s perspective shouting about nonsensical unheeded warning after the fact, the latest being climate change and again human causation. Despite recent advances in science and confirmation of cosmic inflation, further reducing the human factor within the cosmos to a speck within a speck, humanity cannot see the wisdom of giving up an imagined control of the planet if not the entire expanding universe.

    Humans will continue relentlessly to live in fragile areas of drought, earthquakes, floods and innumerable catastrophic probabilities because they choose to, believing in their own infallibility. Humans don’t apparently learn from history or science, preferring instead to dwell in belief and politics ignoring fact and objective truth. Mercifully, only eventual extinction awaits.