In A Crack in the Edge of the World, what level of understanding did the society have concerning natural disasters?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Part of Winchester's analysis argues that the 1906 Earthquake was so destructive because of a lack of understanding about geologic natural disasters.  Winchester details the actual earthquake was met with civil engineering that failed to take account plate tectonic understanding.  This helped to contribute to greater disaster and social fragmentation.  When order was restored, Winchester suggests that there was a desire to continue this ignorant state by seeking to remove any reference to "earthquake."  Thankfully, Winchester suggests that calmer and more focused approaches to understanding the reality of plate tectonics emerged, helping to rebuild the city and allow a more fortified vision to emerge.  When the 1989 Earthquake hit, it was evident that society had a greater understanding concerning natural disasters.  For Winchester, this greater social understanding resulted in less destruction and thus less social fragmentation and disarray.  

As society advanced from 1906, a greater sense of understanding emerged about natural disasters.  This awareness manifested itself in civil engineering and social awareness.  The destruction of the 1906 Earthquake was enhanced because society lacked an effective understanding concerning natural disasters.  The initial response to the natural disaster of seeking to eliminate it from the lexicon is something that Winchester suggests would have carried with it even worse future implications.  Only by engaging in study, discourse, and open understanding about natural disasters have responses to them been more effective and limiting the loss of life and destruction to property.  When Winchester ominously details the reality within the San Andreas Fault and its disastrous potential "kinetic energy," he argues the same approach is needed in order to enhance societal understanding of natural disasters.

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