Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Water, Water, Everywhere
Alcatraz Island, like any National Park, is sprinkled with information panels detailing the history of the place, the local flora and fauna, and so forth. However, in this particular park, there is one panel that does not depict a historical event, but rather, makes a prediction about the future. Perhaps inspired by the new brand of post-apocalyptic science fiction that is regularly broadcast on the so-called "History Channel," the Park Service helpfully shows what the coastline of San Francisco would look like during a 100-year flood.
As you might expect, these dire predictions are accompanied by the usual environmentalist alarmism about how everyone needs to do their part. If we all work together and change a few light bulbs, we can turn back the forces of nature! Sadly, such alarmism ignores the plain facts of history. Like most cities, large parts of San Francisco's waterfront were built on landfill. For purposes of comparison, a map published in 1855 shows the original coastline and the man-made areas of the city.
The map above is a composite which shows the original shoreline in red. From it, one can see that the areas most in danger of flooding are precisely those areas that were under water before the massive building boom of the California gold rush. When faced with the threat of natural disasters, the environmentalist response is always that we should make sacrifices and change our lives in order to accommodate the vagaries of nature's wrath. A man-made problem cannot possibly have a man-made solution.
The areas presumed to be in danger of flooding were originally built with vastly inferior 19th century technology. It stands to reason that the citizens of San Francisco will figure out some way to avoid inundation in the next 90 years, but you will never hear an environmentalist admit that, in the relentless march of human progress, we will find new ways of dealing with nature. Science is only useful when it supports the environmentalist cult of sacrifice.