“Earhquakes don’t kill people, buildings do!”

Dec 12, 2014


Being in a room full of 900 A Level geography students may not be everyone’s idea of fun but there’s something strangely reassuring about their presence. What would bring so many teenagers together in one place? Well that would be the Tectonic Hazards Student Conference run by Hodder Education and Philip Allan Events. An annual gathering of enthusiastic future geographers with the world at their feet and the responsibility of being guardians of the future. A task not to be taken lightly.

First up, everyone’s favourite, Professor Iain Stewart. Before getting started it was time for the obligatory selfie with the crowd. His discussion of “Un-natural Hazards” used a variety of natural disasters such as the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran and the 2006 eruption of Mount Merapi, Indonesia to support his argument that “hazards emerge from nature but disasters are made in society”. His chilling prediction that this generation of geographers is likely to be the first to witness the million death earthquake certainly made students sit up and take notice and he even when so far as to suggest it could be centred on Istanbul. Thought provoking and inspiring for young geographical minds.

Next up Dr. Martin Degg from the University of Chester. No easy feat to follow Iain Stewart but his discussion of the management of earthquake and volcanic risk in Chile and Peru was engaging and provided excellent case study material for future exams.

Professor Fiona Tweed from Staffordshire University presented my favourite session (and one of my favourite destinations: Iceland), raising the question “should we be concerned about Iceland’s volcanoes?” Anything with Iceland in the title will tend to capture my attention but combine this with volcanoes and I’m all in. Past eruptions, from the now infamous Eyjafyallajökull, as well as Katla and Lakagigar (Iceland’s most deadly eruption) have helped our understanding of the potential impacts of Icelandic volcanic eruptions not just in Iceland but across international boundaries and enabled authorities to develop measures to respond to the potential threat. However, with the possibility that Iceland is entering a more active volcanic phase it’s unlikely we’ve heard the end of this fiery island.

Further lectures from Dr. Debbie Milton on Tsunamis, David Redfern on the response to tectonic hazards and finally from Sue Ward on why some tectonic hazards are more disastrous than others gave a wonderful overview to the students, helped to answer many questions and gave them an insight into what to expect from university-style lectures. There was a real buzz about the students at the end of the day, armed not only with the knowledge and understanding required to impress in their A Level exams but with an awareness about their role as future geographers in finding solutions to many of the problems faced.

On that note I’ll leave you with my favourite Iain Stewart quote of the day, “Earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do!”