Martha Figueroa
ESL 91
Fall, 2000

Essay Topic: Imagine that it is the year 2050. Although governments and their citizens were warned about the dangers of the greenhouse effect as early as the 1970's, they did not take the necessary steps to prevent it from worsening. As a result, global warming and ozone depletion continued unchecked. In a well-organized essay, describe what life would be like in 2050 under these conditions. What would be the state of the climate? What would the nations of the world look like? What would be the day-to-day living conditions of the people of the world?

All of our lives we have known that oxygen and air are the most precious resources to human beings. Human beings can survive for weeks or even months without food and for days without water. However a few minutes without air threatens our whole life. Today in the year 2050 air pollution is all around us and it continues to disturb the balance of nature and keeps on destroying the ecology of the world. We have endured many changes and adaptations. For how many years will we keep the planet earth going at this rate of pollution? We still don't have an answer to this question.

This problem began during the Industrial Revolution where changed agricultural and industrial practices created new chemical compositions (oil, coal, gas, carbon dioxide) and added gases that absorbed infrared radiation and were released into the atmosphere. As a result, the earth's atmosphere kept on changing and the temperature of the planet kept on rising and now the global warming factor has no solution. Because of that the greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) increased, resulting in the depletion of the ozone layer.

Due to these changes we can see significant regional variations around the earth. The sea level increased because of glacial melting. As a consequence many countries suffered flooding. The tropical regions lost their vegetation and this caused deforestation in the planet. The animals began to become extinct. In some places it didn't rain and the crops didn't grow. The hurricanes increased in intensity as a consequence of changes in climate. The water cycle that plays an important role in this natural process also was contaminated. It affected the vital cycle in the planet, changing the ecology of the earth.

Now in 2050, the nations of the world can do nothing because it is too late to save the earth. They didn't protect the environment when they should have. The chemical composition and pollution in the atmosphere are destroying all life on the surface of the earth and the climate has changed. The people suffer odd illnesses and new epidemics have appeared. Skin cancer has increased due to the depletion of the ozone layer. The children are being born deformed because of radiation and more children die from severe diarrhea caused by dirty water. The ground doesn't give food, and the species of the sea and animals are dead due to acid rain. The natural resources are ending and people are beginning to die.

The conditions of life are poor, and poor countries are the first to feel this effect. People in these countries don't have enough food and they live in holes and caverns trying to protect themselves from exposure to the rays of the sun. They leave their caverns in the night to collect whatever food they might find in the surface. In contrast, the rich countries with their superior technology create artificial food, water, air and other resources to survive. They live in comfortable subways where people stay all the time, trying to protect themselves from this change that happened in the atmosphere of the earth. Rich or poor, the human beings that remain on the earth are living like moles under the ground.

As a consequence of global warming and ozone layer destruction, the changes in ecology and climate are exterminating our lives. Human beings, animals, and plants are suffering many changes and need to adapt. Today in the year 2050 the balance of nature continues to be disturbed and we can't do anything with this big problem.

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Irina Pototskaya
ESL 91
Fall, 2000

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

An earthquake is one of the most destructive natural disasters. The earth beneath our feet usually feels solid and firm. Yet million times each year -an average of once every thirty seconds- somewhere around the world the ground shakes and sways. We call this phenomenon an earthquake. Fortunately, most earthquakes are too small to be noticed by people; only special scientists instrument called seismographs recorded them. Hundreds of quakes are strong enough to change the face of land, and few cause significant damages to people's properties and lives, as happened in San Francisco in 1906.

At 5:13 on April 18, 1906 a few kilometers from the Golden Gate Bridge, California, a section of rock snapped along the San Andreas Fault. The fault is a crack in rock layer crust that covers our planet. Most cracks occur deep in the earth, but some run up and reach the earth's surface. The San Andreas Fault is one such place. Here, the huge piece of earth's crust called the Pacific Plate is scraping against the North American plate. The rocks on one side of the fault push against the rocks on the other side, accumulating energy. For many years friction will hold the rocks in place. But finally, when the rocks cannot bear the stress, the pieces of crust move. This sudden movement releases a huge amount of energy that spreads outward through the surrounding rocks in all directions as seismic waves. The point under the ground where it emanates is called the focus of the quake. The place on the ground above the focus called the epicenter.

In 1906, the break spread quickly along the fault southward and northward. As this rupture in the rocks grew, seismic waves radiated out through the earth, shaking the ground surface across a wide area of California and Nevada." The long rapture on the San Andrea Fault occurring on that day was later mapped by geologist, who concluded that it extended 290 miles or 470 kilometers. The offset along the faults was mainly horizontal and reached 25 feet or 6 meters in Marin Country, just north of San Francisco. The maximum vertical displacement across the fault in some places was less then a meter. The area significantly affected by the quake was long, narrow, and parallel to the San Andrea Fault."/ B. Bolt p.4 / Seismologists- the scientists who study the earthquakes- measured this quake at somewhere on the Richter scale 8,3 downgraded to a 7,8 in our days.

During the 1906 earthquake in the San-Francisco region, roads, fences, and rows of trees and bushes that crossing the fault were offset several yards, and the roads across the head of Tomales Bay was offset almost 21 feet. In each case, the ground west of the fault moved relatively northward.

The shaking of ground is something usual for South California. " Tourists and newcomers are generally alarmed by this phenomenon, but old Californians have learned to take it philosophically."/ Ch. Morris p.22 / There were sensitive quakes in 1856, 1865, 1872, 1898, and 1900 which didn't bring serious damage or people loss, and after 1900 it seemed to be stopped totally. The San Francisco kept up its record as "one of the liveliest and in many respects the most reckless and pleasure-loving city on the continent". / Ch. Morris p.26 / People believed in that. A lot of money was deposited into this promising, growing rapidly, and marvelous, young city. Sitting like Rome of old on its seven hills, San Francisco was located between the Pacific Ocean and its own spending bay, on a peninsula of five miles in width. It was disposed in a really beautiful and very beneficial place, if there weren't the quake. The citizens were so accustom to live with constant tremor. They believed nothing bad could happen with them, cause of using frame structures, which they supposed were the safeties while earthquake. At this time people knew that they knew.

It used to be till the earlier morning on April 18, 1906. At 5:12 A.M. half million people were suddenly awakened by terrible shaking, which came in two shocks: one 40 second duration and other 75-second and felt over an area 375,000 miles, more than twice size of California. The epicenter was 8 miles/ 13 km/ away from the center of the city. The earth rolled with waves 2 feet / 0,6m/ high making buildings waves and fall apart, twisting rails and streetcars, and creating cracks in the streets that spurted out gas and water from broken pipes.

This earth trembling brought a great hazard. Many buildings collapsed; the streets were piled with fragments of falling walls; many roads were destroyed; the street's rails were twisted; the underground mains were smashed by the quake, and telephone, and telegraph systems were disrupted. The city was cut off from the rest of the world. There was a lot of damage; however, the earthquake did not revenged the city, the fire did.

Just after the quake at the same time flames started in a dozen different places. And there was nothing that they could do to stop it. There were no organizations, no communications. The water system was made from infirm material like lied was destroyed. Nothing helped the bumbling efforts of troops trying to stop the conflagration by dynamite. This huge "auto de fe" continued inside three days. At night the fire brightened the sky 50 miles away, so that in the next towns it was light enough outside to read a newspaper. The air become so hot that everything near the fire burned or melted. On Saturday morning, 74 hours after it began, the great fire was over. The city was ravaged completely San Francisco was gone. Their carelessness and incompetence cost a lot for San Francisco's residents. They lost the properties. They lost men life. As estimated 3000 residents perished, 500 city's blocks were obliterated, and $ 500 million of damage was done.

Compared to others, like earthquake of 1896 in Japan, or another in Messina, Italy, in 1908 or one in China in December 1920, or many others in the history of human civilization that killed thousands or even hundred of thousands people and resulted uncounted damage, this quake wasn't so killing; yet this calamity has captured the public imagination as no one disaster excepts possibly the sinking of the Titanic. Why did this one?

It came at a time when communication like the phone and telegraph had recently brought the world together into one community. The city was rich and famous by its residents. This fabulous careless city, which used to think about itself like the "Paris of the West," despite the warning that it was built in really dangerous place, like Titanic was a challenge to destiny called demonstrating superiority of man's genius under the nature.

When I was reading about sinking of the Titanic, I was shocked by fact that 500 sits in the lifeboats were empty. This ship was so huge, so advertised like unsinking, that in the beginning of the catastrophe, passengers refused to believe that something bad could happen with this pattern of mechanic genius and refused to take their sits in lifeboats. The same story I am observing about the San Francisco. They had too much confidence, too reevaluated their experiences, too much believed what they could to subdue the destiny. The city located just above the San Andreas Fault where the earthquake happened consequently all the time, but founders of the city neglected this fact.

No earthquake in history of the world has been better recorded than this one. These catastrophes had a big impact on public conscience and compelled men paid more attention for natural forces. In the United States was established first integrated special government scientist's commission to study this catastrophe and gather geological information. That scientist's investigation that continued for many years brought a lot of useful information. On the basis of these surveys, seismologist-the scientist who study earthquake-could understand the mechanic of this geological phenomenon and created the theory of elastic rebound. They also confirm that this quake wasn't the last one, this phenomenon would continue, but they were not able to predict when a new strong one would strike the city again.

There are some of their conclusions. Built in a series of economic booms, San Francisco was a mixture of old and new buildings. Most of those were constructed with no heed to natural hazard. Consequence investigation exposed the fact of connections between the damage to buildings in the earthquake and the design, and construction of the structures. The most collapsed buildings were made from wood or bricks, even though they were constructed with wooden frames. Only steel frame structures could avoid the damage.

Another important consequence that has been found out was the dependence between the type of soil on which homes or houses were built and distractions. Shaking didn't seriously injure those that were located on the rock soil, but others, which were located on the soft ground, were destroyed completely. The whole Bay low area with its sand soft soil became a target for the quake. Then, the Golden Bridge located almost above the focus of this quake wasn't injured.

One worse thing happened during the quake. It was so called liquefaction of soil. Under Marin districts and China Basin areas, which were the parts of the bay drained by people artificially, water is very close to surface and during earthquake it cause a "sand boil". Many of these area residents were killed with quick sand trapped under stumps of their own collapsing homes during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Afterwards, some citizens said it would be crazy to rebuild the city where it was sure to be struck again some day. But within three years, the central districts ah been completely restored with new roads, bridges, and buildings all capable of with standing severe shocks and resisting fire. Donations came from around the world. In October 1909, the city of San Francisco held the Portola Festival to celebrate its recovery.


  1. The American Encyclopedia
  2. Bolt . Earthquakes. 1993. University of California, Berkeley. W. H. Freeman and Company. NY
  3. Charles Mrris.1986. The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire. Citadel Press.NJ
  4. Loretta Kasper. 1998. Interdisciplinary English. The McGraw-Hill Companies, INC. Primis Custom Publishing.
  5. Spencer Christian, Anatolia Felix. 1997. Shake, Rattle, and Roll. John Wiley & Song, INC.

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