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Volcanic Explosion Shows We’re Not in Control

On August 27, 1883, a blast in Indonesia sent sound waves that ripped across the face of the earth. A volcanic explosion, 10,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb, tore apart the Indonesian island of Krakatoa. People heard the sound as far away as Bangkok, Manila, and Australia (2,000 miles distant). As the sky turned red and rained rock, church goers on nearby islands shuddered, fearing it was the end of days.

The blast killed over 36,000 people, destroying more than 3/4 of the island. The entire planet experienced a raft of environmental effects. Dramatic sunsets and strange phenomena in the sky took place for months. Fire brigades were called as far away as North America. The sky itself looked as if it was on fire.

As news of the explosion ricocheted across the planet, the global public was fascinated. The world was in the grip of the industrial revolution and the rapid growth of technology had elevated belief in human power and potential. For the first time in history, it felt as if nature was tamed. However, the scale of the eruption of Krakatoa awed the world. The modern age again became frightened, reminded of the limits of human ability and the terrifying potency of nature. In an instant, the island of Krakatoa was changed.

For many of us, that is what the world feels like now. The pandemic, cultural change, political polarization, and technological disruption have rapidly altered the world we live in at a breakneck speed. The sheer weight of change has left many of us disoriented. We, too, have realized that we are not as in control as we thought.

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