What are the social, economic and environmental effects of Earthquakes? And what are examples of measures taken to tackle earthquakes? What are the limitations of such measures?

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tjbrewer | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Social effects of earthquakes are seen in Japan, which experiences more earthquakes than any other place on Earth.  Their society is built largely around earthquake survival.  Short furniture, that prevents items from falling on top of someone.  Pagodas that are built to withstand the shaking.  Frequent drills for earthquakes and related phenomena (e.g. tsunamis). 

Economic effects are dramatic.  Depending on the size of the earthquake it can range from a tourism draw to a disaster.  In the aftermath of major earthquakes there's frequently looting, the structural damage, the lives lost, those who come to experience earthquakes, those who come to study these effects. 

Environmental effects are present as well, liquefaction (where seemingly solid materials are temporarily liquefied by the shaking) completely changes the landscape, and kills plants and animals that were otherwise safe.  Damage to Human structures including sewage plants, and nuclear facilities can lead toxic materials into the environment.  Trees can be downed, animals move into unusual areas and act strangely. 

Measures are taken to minimize the effects.  Buildings in earthquake prone areas are built with innovations to sustain earthquakes (e.g. springs built into the foundation).  In Japan there is a system that detects the relatively benign primary waves from an earthquake, and set off an alarm for everyone to take Earthquake protection measures (crouching next to something sturdy) before the damaging Secondary and surface waves hit.  Predicting when and where they will occur is the "Holy Grail" but still remains elusive.  And these only mitigate the damage, they don't prevent it. 

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