Anthony Reid


The longer the time-depth considered, the more human history is dependent on the
beneficence of the planet we inhabit. The disastrous Aceh tsunami of 2004 stimulated
geological research which has revealed similar mega-tsunamis resulting from
earthquakes of 9.0 magnitude or more every few centuries in the past. Even more
destructive to civilization and agriculture are the massive volcanic eruptions such
as Tembora (1815), which caused crop failures around the world, let alone in underresearched Indonesia itself. The new geological research strengthens a growing sense
of Indonesian population history as one unusually exposed to the disruptive rhythm of
the planet. In periods of relative quiescence on the ring of fire, such as the twentieth
century, a benign climate and fertile volcanic soils can produce rapid population growth
and development. But rather than forming a constant, this pattern appears to have been
interrupted by periodic disasters. Interdisciplinary research is desperately needed to
locate past traumas, and relate them to what we know of the historical record. It may
also reveal, on the positive side, that the Archipelagos celebrated human and biological
diversity owes something to the periodic disruption to agriculture-based civilization.
Keywords: Natural disaster, Volcanic, Population

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