Natural Disasters in History: The Earthquake

After a comet hits the earth, massive disaster arises like in the Great Earthquake of 1755; consequently, millions are killed and left homeless, billions are hungry and government has collapsed. So what next? Where does civilization go from here? After reading the novel Candide, by Voltaire, the world today has evolved and would manage a disaster much differently than in 1755. Rather than becoming extinct, mankind would rise to the occasion and not only survive, but prosper.

The earthquake of Lisbon left the citizens questioning God.

People assumed that because God exhibits perfection, that the world must exhibit perfection too. Pangloss teaches Candide his philosophy by stating, “There cannot possibly be an effect without a cause and that in this best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire 4). His philosophy explains that in the end everything works out according to God's plan with the best possible outcome. Today, in 2018, everybody understands the world remains imperfect. Now people have different religions and outlooks on life. People subscribe to different religions or maybe not even at all.

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Subscribers of religion do not believe God deliberately causes problems, but rather accept the way the world works like that. Throughout the novel, Candide experiences horrible things such as rapes, robbery, executions, disease, and earthquakes. These events do not do anything good for the world, yet Pangloss somehow manages to justify it. In this era, people based life on superstition and answers provided by others, like Candide listening to Pangloss. Everyone based life from devine answers. The citizens thought God wanted to punish them so they tried to please him with sacrifices: “After the earthquake had wiped out three quarters of Lisbon, the learned men of the land could find no more effective way of averting total destruction than to give the people a find auto-da-fe” (14).

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In order to please God, they killed and made sacrifices thinking it would make God happy. Instead of working together, they turned against each other. As time progressed, the Enlightenment turned into the age of reason. The population began to think for itself with a greater belief in self determination and reason rather than fate and destiny. If a comet strikes the earth people would take action rather than questioning it and God. The world would come together in this time of need. People would help build shelter for the homeless, ration food for the hungry, and do everything in order to overcome the disaster.

During the Earthquake of 1755 many people began panicking. While this proves to be a valid response from the inhabitants of Lisbon, people nowadays would react calmer. Fortunately, the world today consists of advanced technology. With this available technology, people would be aware before anything severe happens, such as a comet hitting the earth. Being aware of upcoming events allows the world time to prepare. NASA tracks near-earth objects using telescopes and has a planetary defense procedure they would execute in this situation preventing everyone running around panicking. Earthquakes remained a mystery to Lisbon with oblivion reigning all over. Today, the world understands the science behind natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes and more. After the earthquake, the citizens of Lisbon made new discoveries of modern building strategies. They constructed buildings with the intention to be more durable through earthquakes. After disasters like this, people improve the world with the knowledge that they have learned from their experiences. Candide follows Pangloss’s optimistic philosophy, while Martin has a different outlook on life: “You’re a hard man, said Candide. I’ve lived, said Martin” (Voltaire 64). Martin obviously has experienced hardships that made him realize the world proves to be imperfect. These experiences leave him with a pessimistic outlook. Today we have a similar outlook as Martin and realize the truth of the world. We have a more positive view and result from the tragedies we encounter. Instead of investing energy into being pessimistic, we remain rather positive and learn to grow from it. The world has experienced numerous disasters since 1755. Similarly to the Lisbon earthquake, new discoveries have been made that continue to improve the world.

The world has experienced many disasters. Unfortunately, people have had to encounter these tragedies, but positivity sprouts from people coming together. The Haiti Earthquake demonstrates this perfectly. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 affected millions, resulting in death, injury, and homelessness. People from all over the world joined together to provide aid for the country. Red Cross and other humanitarian groups provided Haitians with food, water, shelter, and medical aid. People from all over the world donated money to charities and also helped by volunteering in the country. Even celebrities took part in helping Haiti, such as Justin Bieber, Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus, and many more by collaborating on a song with all funds going to Haiti relief. Evidently, after tragedies everyone comes together and lends a helping hand in the world today. The tragedy of 1755, resulted in death made by sacrifices of trying to please God. Instead of working together, they turned against each other. Rather than rely on God, people must rely on themselves. Candide states, “We must cultivate our garden” (Voltaire 81). Candide realizes he must take responsibilities for his own actions for the best outcome. He finally starts thinking for himself and eventually life gets better. This logic applies to the world today. People cannot just expect things to happen or to get better, they have to put the work into it to get the results they want.

Updated: Sep 08, 2021
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Natural Disasters in History: The Earthquake. (2021, Sep 08). Retrieved from

Natural Disasters in History: The Earthquake essay
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