Everyone in Vancouver knows that one day, the ‘big one’ will come – a massive earthquake starting at the Cascadia subduction zone that runs between California and Vancouver Island. Back on January 26th, 1700, the zone experienced a ‘megaquake’ of magnitude 9.0 or more that swamped villages in Japan with the tsunami it created. It is estimated that the chances of a similar quake during the next 50 years are about one in three.
That is certainly something that should be borne in mind when deciding whether to construct dangerous infrastructure in the region. That includes nuclear power plants, but also oil refineries, natural gas infrastructure, chemical plants, and more.
It seems possible that lifelong awareness that a massive earthquake could occur might contribute a bit of apocalyptic psychology to the people of Vancouver. Even as a small child, I remembered being grateful to live in one of the parts of the city well above sea level. In elementary school, we each had little emergency preparedness baggies with food and water. They probably wouldn’t have done much good though: both my elementary school and high school had cinderblock walls with heavy concrete slabs for ceilings and floors. In a big earthquake, everyone inside would probably have been crushed.