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The geology of any particular area imposes constraints on what humans can do. These constraints are generally thought of as geologic hazards, but access to the natural resources we all use and to recreational or scenic areas, may be local issues as well. The location of roads, bridges, reservoirs, landfills and other waste-disposal sites, etc., also have both geologic and public-policy consequences.

As a society, we can either plan for or fail to plan for these consequences. If we allow people to build homes in floodplains, they will become flood victims. If we prohibit building on floodplains, we have...

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