Indonesia is located between the Pacific, Eurasian, and Australian tectonic plates. This region is known as the „ring of fire“ and is regularly affected by natural disasters which include frequent occurrence of earthquakes, volcano eruptions and tsunamis. Yet, the Ring of Fire does not only bring death and destruction. Volcanoes offer a pull factor for farmers. Soil fed by volcanic ash is highly fertile and has attracted settlements on and near the slopes of volcanoes, and the leftovers of the eruptions are being used as high-quality building material.
There are tons of tourists sitting in jeeps, negotiating the steep, sandy roads on the slopes of active volcanoes. Some are highly attracted by the destruction or even come to see ongoing eruptions. Lonely Miners searching for sulfur on volcanic land sourrounded by tourists who search for their next adventure are commonplace in some areas - as well as people lying with all-inclusive cocktails in the sun on tsunami-endangered beaches. Tourists and locals value pristine beaches and scenic landscapes and the feeling that everything is well-prepared for an emergency. In some hotels, there are tsunami warning buttons by which the hotel staff can trigger an alarm.
Scientists from all over the planet attempt to empirically track down the forces of nature with sensors, seismographs, and international research teams - in opposite to the traditional view of blaming human sins and not the unfavorable geographic location for the forces of nature. For many people, living near a volcanic crater is a sacred privilege. In some places the word of shamans and other spiritual leaders mean more than the data of the scientists. Mbah Maridjan for example was „the gatekeeper“ of Mount Merapi, charged by the Sultan of Yogyakarta with managing the volcano‘s hidden spirits. When officials came to tell him it was time to leave the volcano‘s lower slopes and move to safety, he refused and died during the 2010 eruption. Lately, Scientists have found another force—climate change— that affects the frequency of eruptions. A new study shows even relatively minor climate variations may have a big influence. Melting of ice on volcanoes can increase risk of landslides and destabilize the magma ‘plumbing system’ inside, say researchers. If they are right, today’s global warming could mean more and bigger volcanic eruptions in the future.
Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Java and has persistent minor eruptions, but according to volcanologists Mount Merapi is heavily overdue a large-scale eruption which could potentially put over 1.1 million people at risk.