New Zealand: Multiple Hazards, Multiple Uncertainties

The two earthquakes overnight offshore are likely to have woken many people up, who then had trouble getting back to sleep, or who had to evacuate because they lived in a potential tsunami-risk area. Or perhaps they had kids who were frightened and couldn’t get back to sleep. Or maybe you slept through the whole thing – you’d be lucky though, because they do appear to have been pretty widely felt, with multiple aftershocks. Here’s the 2.27am quake felt report map. The darker the colour, the more extreme was the shaking that was experienced.

As I type this blog, my twitterfeed tells me that there has been another large earthquake, with what looks like another tsunami advisory issued.

It’s a sharp reminder that in New Zealand, we live in a land filled with multiple hazards, with multiple overlapping uncertainties.

And this can take its toll when it feels like everything is happening at once.

Some of these are natural hazards, like the earthquakes last night and all we have experienced over the last decade and longer. Others have a large natural component too, but with contributions through human activity to a greater or lesser extent, e.g. climate change and arguably the coronavirus pandemic. And we also face other human activity which pose a real and present danger, e.g. the recent arrests connected with activity designed to cause terror on the anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks later this month.

The Sunday Star-Times published an extract from my book on ‘The Trouble with Uncertainty’. Right now, you might find this useful to read to make sense of some of the feelings you might be experiencing, and again later today when Cabinet meets to decide the Alert Level settings for New Zealand as we deal with the latest pandemic cluster.

Here’s a short excerpt:

“When your brain is constantly responding as if you are in imminent danger, it’s very hard to do anything else. Your brain is focused on staying alive and you simply don’t have the mental space or resources necessary for creative problem-solving and strategic thinking. These activities that are so crucial in a crisis get demoted to ‘nice-to-have-once-I-survive-this-threat’ status. Your brain doesn’t particularly care where you’re headed, it just wants to deal with the threat – and it’s exhausting.”

Read that article here. And you can get my book here, here, and here.


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