Environmental Issues Activities


  1. You get a job with an insurance company that offers a wide variety of coverage, from health to homes. Like other insurance companies, they keep careful track of risks, so they are interested to know that you know something about environmental geology. 

    Create "relative risk" maps for the Northeast United States for each of the following: 

    • earthquakes,
    • land subsidence,
    • landslides, and
    • radon. 

    Do this by taking into account the main factors controlling each of these risks:  

    • earthquakes: plate boundaries and older faults
    • land subsidence: areas with coal and limestone
    • landslides: intense rainfall, rapid rainfall, steep slopes
    • radon: iron-magnesium-poor volcanic rocks, granites, dark shales, some metamorphic rocks 

    Use your own scaling and mapping system to describe the amount of risk. 

  2. Your insurance company has many local clients. 

    Looking at geologic and topographic maps, do this same exercise (1) for your local neighborhood. 

  3. A publisher of a book on the best and worst places to live in the Northeast hears about your maps. She'd like a way to summarize the information for her purposes and hires you as a consultant to provide one generalized map of best and worst places with respect to geological hazards. To do this you will have to take into account the relative risk of the different kinds of hazards and combine them into one scale of of risk. 

    • Using your maps from (1), find in the Northeast a system to combine the different risks, so that you have one number (say from 0 to 10) describing risk. Explain your reasoning and the caveats involved in using just one number to express risk.
    • Draw another map, now using your "combined" risk scale. Make a list of the top 5 and worst 5 places in the Northeast for natural geological hazards.