Clear perspective out of Volcanic Ash

April 20, 2010

How small and relatively insignificant we have been so rapidly made to feel as one volcano within a tiny nation has all but paralyzed much of northern Europe, rendering a huge amount of airspace instantly unusable.

Puts the human impact on climate change in dramatic and glaring perspective.  And it all happened in a span of days significantly shorter than some famous conferences on the same subject!

Last time, when Eyjafjallajökull blew its top in 1821, things went on, and off, and on again for over a year!  But the time before that, in 1783, while the explosion lasted for “only” 8 months, it included a series of other Icelandic eruptions believed to have resulted in mass destruction of crops, inducing the “lost” summer of the same year.

This missing season likely sent much of Continental Europe into a considerable period of widespread poverty, with enormous attendant political and personal consequences.

Yet, from death also springs a most vibrant and special life.  Many scientists believe that mass eruptions 70,000 years ago likely reduced the “human” race to a rather narrow expression of DNA making us all 99.9% identical.  Other eruptions may also have coincided with an asteroid impact, opening the door for our existence by rendering the dinosaurs extinct.

Perhaps with this latest exhibition that we are alive on an incredibly dynamic planet, along with molten hot lava, and columns of airborne ash, we will also witness the emergence of a less politicized and polemical view of our climate.

Perhaps, when the smoke clears, we will experience a less hysterical vision of life, where our role as good stewards of the environment will be seen against the backdrop of a much deeper and beautiful reality, on incredible display for billions of years.


NASA & Putin

April 17, 2010

Retiring the Space Shuttle has long been on the drawing board, with the assumption that, for a little while, US astronauts would need to rely on Russian carriage to the Space Station.

Without US technology, particularly the Shuttle, the ISS could not have been built.

As critiqued by the likes of Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Eugene Cernan, President Obama’s new space plan, which curtails planned booster development without specific alternatives, greatly increases and lengthens the time the US would be dependent on Vladimir Putin for passage on Soyuz rockets.

This means the Russians will have complete access to a very special facility, while we’ll have none (unless they grant it).

To some, this doesn’t matter, but to others, who see what Prime Minister Putin has done with Gazprom, the Russian state-owned fuel company, this new plan is causing some concern.  With the health and well-being of several European nations at stake, holding an energy stranglehold on natural gas, Russia has shown itself all too willing to turn off the valve and let people freeze.

If Mr. Putin has a history of doing this with a critical natural resource affecting millions, why wouldn’t he be so inclined with the few seats available on his rockets?!