“The Big One” became a news sensation and underlying threat to the citizens of Portland when this article in The New Yorker was published in 2015. I remember arriving here shortly after the summer of 2016. I didn’t hear anything about it until the end of my freshman spring semester. An opportunity was made for students across all disciplines to participate in a multi-disciplinary research team for the summer on campus. And although I did not get into the lab I continued to monitor the news pertaining to this event. Most of the stories from reputable news agencies were sensational and catastrophic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing although in hindsight I now see that this invoked fear in me.
Another one of the projects that I have been tasked with is reading the DOGAMI report which details the impacts that Portland would face when the earthquake hits. Why is this of interest to people an environmental economic think tank? For many reasons, most of which I can’t think of but with regards to my internship the earthquake will have devastating effects on the lives of millions of people, specifically those who are low-income and people of colour who reside very close to the CEI Hub. This is where trains carrying various fossil fuels stop before being distributed around the country. When, and not if, “The Big One” hits, the CEI hub will burst into flames and engulf everything and one in its tracks.
This is a reality we cannot escape. However, the city can take measures to ensure that the community is resilient. There are two earthquakes that are expected to happen: The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the 6.8 Portland Hills fault earthquake. The latter will be more devastating due to its epicentre being close to the city. Both will result in a loss of life, damage of property and habitat and cost billions of dollars in repairs. However, if the city of Portland earnestly begins its preparation now by implementing and enforcing various policies that protect people, mandating that building codes are able to withstand the impact, the casualties will not be as great.
After reading the DOGAMI report I feel more empowered to move forward to prepare myself for this event. And as I continue working, I hope to help build a campaign that raises awareness and mobilises the community to act now.