Millions of People...

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Millions of people live in the country surrounding the southwest coast of Italy, in fact its one of the most beautiful places in he world. Many people come to the area on vacation or for business. The scary part is, every resident lives in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, one of the worlds most dangerous volcanoes. Vesuvius hasn’t erupted since 1944, but has a regular eruption cycle of 20 years, so what’s the deal? It sounds like a pretty hairball situation to me. In fact, archeologists believe that an eruption many times the magnitude of the famous eruption in 79 A.D. could be possible. If Vesuvius were to erupt on such a massive scale, how will society deal with the consequences?

Mount Vesuvius was formed as the colliding African and Eurasian plates melted into magma in what is called a subduction zone. Since magma is much less dense than the surrounding rock, it thrusted upward causing a weak spot in the earth’s crust where it was able to break through, forming a volcano. Vesuvius is a composite volcano meaning it erupts in massive clouds of hot ash. Some eruptions were believed to cover the whole of southern Europe in a blanket of cinders. With geologic evidence frozen in both the layers of ice in Greenland as well as ancient accounts suggesting that ash fell as far away as modern day Istanbul, what could this mean for the area surrounding Vesuvius if another eruption of this huge magnitude were to occur?

Metropolitan Naples is home to over 3 million people. Previous to the discoveries that led scientists to believe that there was a massive eruption in 1800 B.C., people thought the city would be relatively safe. However, Geologic patterns show that there has been a very large eruption every 2000 years, and with that due date assigned by the 79 A.D. eruption very near, the odds of a current eruption increase every year. A catastrophe this huge would wipe Naples off the map, the implications of which would be dire.

The economic, political, and environmental impacts of such an eruption would be cause for an international outcry. Not only would the money have to be spent on rescue efforts but also on reconstruction. And with all of this money being sucked out of the Italian economy, political alliances would be tested. Would all countries be able to help? And if not, wars have begun due this same type of situation. Plus, the C02 emissions and desertification of the surrounding land, stopping all agricultural activities, would be a severe blow to the environment.

And then comes the ethics question that international governments must ask themselves: If there could be a massive eruption, and millions of people’s lives could be at stake, couldn’t it be considered a human rights violation if the government doesn’t take the proper steps to warn and evacuate the masses? If they have the means to do so and they don’t help the innocent population, wouldn’t that be a violation of their duty as leaders to keep their fellow countrymen safe?
I chose this topic because I’m concerned about what could happen to the world, and interested in what science can do to help (Technology does exist that can help predict eruptions.) If such a catastrophe were to occur, it would affect the entire world economy (and that includes our bubble world of Park City.) By doing this project I’ve learned that the region surrounding Vesuvius is full of culture, vibrant life, and is a valuable asset to an enriched world. Vesuvius will erupt eventually (there’s nothing we can do about that) and we can only hope that society will be responsible and ready.

Works Cited

Mazzatenta, L (2005). www.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved February 13, 2008, from Mount Vesuvius victims Web site: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/specials/photography-specials/behind-the-shot/vesuvius-mazzatenta.html

Seach, J (2004). Mt. Vesuvius Volcano. Retrieved February 13, 2008, from Volcano Live Web site: http://www.volcanolive.com/vesuvius.html

Sheridan, M (2007). Vesuvius' Next Eruption May Put Metro Naples at Risk. Retrieved February 13, 2008, from University of Buffalo News Center Web site: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/fast-execute.cgi/article-page.html?article=78030009





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