[FOUNTAIN]No earthquake is as bad as getting oldAlthough Hurricane Katrina has become a popular topic of conversation after leaving tremendous scars across the southern United States, the worst natural disaster of all is an earthquake. An earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale is as powerful as 2.5 million nuclear bombs.
The tsunami that swept the Indonesian island of Sumatra in 2004 registered 8.9 on the Richter scale. Approximately 250,000 people lost their lives, but far fewer animals were killed, because the animals already knew an earthquake was coming and escaped. One Russian zoologist attributed this to the fact that although the lowest pitch a human being can hear is 16 hertz, most animals can hear sounds as low as 8 hertz, so were able to sense the seismic waves beforehand.
The most disastrous and lar-gest earthquake damage reco-rded in the Guinness Book of World Records is the earthquake in Shaanxi in 1556, which killed 830,000 people. The earthquake suddenly hit the city’s concentrated population, making for the ultimate disaster.
Ernest Zebrowski wrote in his book “Perils of a Restless Planet: Scientific Perspectives on Natural Disasters,” that as the population grows, the deadliness of earthquakes increases. An increasing population magnifies the power of the greenhouse effect and results in a greater number of earthquakes and hurricanes. At its current rate of growth, by the year 2033 the world’s population will be 11 billion, and will double by 2072, to reach 22 billion. Therefore, after 570 years, there would be only one square meter of land for each person on earth. In 1994, environmentalist Poul Erih said the world can accommodate only 1.5 billion to 2 billion people, but the earth’s population is already three times over that limit.
“Age-quake” is a term developed by Paul Wallace, a British demographic scholar. It uses the earthquake metaphor to visualize the impact of aging populations. Wallace says, however, that an age-quake is much worse than an earthquake. When the baby-boom generation retires in 2020, the world economy will “quake” to the equivalent force of a 9.0 on the Richter scale. Wallace named Korea as the first country to be affected by this age-quake.
Starting Sept. 1, a law rega-rding the issues of low birth-rate and aging society went into effect. The law aims to reduce the impact that Korean society will face within 15 years due to the “age-quake,” but people seem uninterested in it. I guess preparing for an aging society is not yet an issue people care about. Is it because people do not sense the huge earthquake coming toward them, or is it because the difficulty of surviving today’s economy means they do not have the luxury of preparing for the future?
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.