In the wake of the Japan earthquake, and the resulting tsunami, members of the media, some scientists, and environmentalists have posited some … interesting theories as to the root cause of the earthquakes and aftershocks that devastated Japan.
The science behind earthquakes, like the science behind magnets, is a mystery to some. In 2010, Iranian Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi told his followers that “Many women who dress inappropriately […] cause youths to go astray, taint their chastity and incite extramarital sex in society, which increases earthquakes.”
While no link between tectonic activity and cleavage has been found by scientists, I imagine that the quest to prove or disprove this hypothesis got many young men interested in geology, at least for a short amount of time.
Before I go any further, I should explain what scientists know to be the cause of an earthquake. The earth below our feet may appear to be static, but in reality, the Earth is what geologists call “geologically active.” That is to say, the Earth is a planet which has an active, hot core, and tectonic plates which are always moving around—just so slowly that it’s imperceptible to the naked eye.
Because our planet’s innards are active and hot, the continental plates that make up the surface layer, or the lithosphere, slowly move around on a layer of molten rock called the athenosphere. At the places where the continents meets, they will move apart, push together, or slide orthogonally against each other. These points where continents meets are called “faults.”
Over time, the pressure from two faults hitting or rubbing against each other builds up, and is released explosively.
Japan, as well as all of Western Asia and the entire west coasts of North and South America, sits on what is called the Ring of Fire, which is a giant, circum-Pacific belt of earthquake fault lines. An estimated 90% of the world’s earthquakes are caused by North and South America’s slow westward collision with the plate beneath the Pacific Ocean, as well as Australia’s eastbound collision with the same plate. Japan is, tectonically speaking, part of North America, not Asia, and sits right on the fault line where North America is colliding with the Pacific Plate.
That is—by and far—the most likely reason that Japan suffered a massive earthquake—a naturally occurring release of built-up kinetic energy. But could global warming, and by extension, Western civilization, have been responsible for the Japanese earthquake? Let’s explore, in descending order of “completely off-the-wall crazy” to “it’s somewhat plausible,” some of the theories espoused by the Left.