Living with a Dangerous Plate Boundary
Living on plate boundaries can be a dangerous and difficult thing, but the South Americans inhabiting the Andes Mountains are very experienced in dealing with these problems, since they live on the boundaries of the South American Plate and the Nazca Plate. Boundaries like these are common earthquake and volcano zones, so people living in these areas must take certain precautions to lead normal lives among these natural disaster time bombs.
The Andes Mountain Range is the longest mountain range in the world. But don’t let its beautiful snowcapped hills fool you: many of these mountains are volcanoes in disguise, just waiting to erupt. Earthquakes occur frequently and cause landslides on the slopes. Many changes in lifestyle must be made to deal with these problems. Buildings and houses on the mountains are low and designed to keep citizens safe. They also take many other earthquake precautions that anyone living in an area of earthquake sensitivity will as well: putting heavy objects on lower shelves and keeping safe under a desk or table while the ground is shaking.
The volcanoes aren’t quite as easily avoided: most mountains in the range are volcanic, though usually dormant or extinct. The people must take precautions in case one of these or and active volcano were to blow, but the unpredictable nature of volcanoes makes it difficult to feel safe. Smaller earthquakes, some giving off heat and gas, give efficient warning signs, along with bulges of known volcanoes. Anyone living on the mountains is good at identifying these, and other, warning signs and can evacuate quickly if necessary.
Mudslides are problems that can’t often be helped. Since the collision of the two plates created mountains, earth is soaked and shifts to bury people in mud in the worst cases. They’re usually caused by excess rain in a concentrated area. There isn’t much that can be done to prevent this disaster, though the people of the Andes Mountain Range know to build their homes out of the way of potential mudslide paths. Even so, if a mudslide is likely, the area will usually evacuate and move to safety.
As you can see, living on plate boundaries is a dangerous practice, especially a convergent boundary like the one between the South American and Nazca Plates, where mountains can form. The people of the Andes Mountains have lived with disasters like earthquakes, volcanoes, and other problems that occur on most mountains, like mudslides. They may know their way around them, but a society inhabiting such an unpredictable location can never be one hundred percent sure.