"Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice." - Will Durant in What is Civilization?, Ladies Home Journal, January 1946
I have had the opportunity to give a few talks the past few months and have been closing with this quote from the historian Will Durant.
Historically Durant's quote certainly is applicable, and the quote is a nice nod to the importance of geology in shaping civilization. Certainly there have been civilizations that have been shaped and in some cases ended due to geology. The shaping of civilization by geology has been both subtle and at times dramatic.
That said, I think geologists and civilization should focus on the "change without notice" part of the quote. While our modern civilization may not be able to precisely predict civilization changing geologic events, I would argue geology does give us notice. How we, as a modern civilization, respond to geologic notice is a measure of our success as a civilization. We have moved beyond, or we should have, being caught unaware of geologic processes.
A measure of the success of a civilization is to respond and plan for what geology change will take place. A hard thing to do at any government level be it local or global.