Megascale geologic processes, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, and meteoritic impacts have occurred intermittently throughout geologic time, and perhaps on several planets. Unlike other catastrophes discussed in this volume, a unique process is unfolding on Earth, one in which humans may be the driving agent of megadisasters. Although local effects on population clusters may have been catastrophic in the past, human societies have never been interconnected globally at the scale that currently exists. We review some megascale processes and their effects in the past, and compare present conditions and possible outcomes. We then propose that human behavior itself is having effects on the planet that are comparable to, or greater than, these natural disasters. Yet, unlike geologic processes, human behavior is potentially under our control. Because the effects of our behavior threaten the stability, or perhaps even existence, of a civilized society, we call for the creation of a body to institute coherent global, credible, scientifi cally based action that is sensitive to political, economic, religious, and cultural values. The goal would be to institute aggressive monitoring, identify and understand trends, predict their consequences, and suggest and evaluate alternative actions to attempt to rescue ourselves and our ecosystems from catastrophe. We provide a template modeled after several existing national and international bodies. ?? 2009 The Geological Society of America.
Additional Publication Details
Megascale processes: Natural disasters and human behavior
Special Paper of the Geological Society of America