Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ash Clouds Over our Future

While the boring debate about human induced climate debate is enthusiastically participated in by zealots on both sides and dismissed by the majority of people who have more important things to worry about, the Earth, this planet we temporarily inhabit, keeps delivering reminders of its frightening power, and absolute disregard for us.

There have been more earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, and a volcano in Chile which would not have made the news in our part of the world but for the tragic fact that it messed up the travel plans of tens of thousands of air commuters and holiday makers. That damn ash cloud also cost the airlines a lot of moolah: Australian airlines reported losses of around one hundred million dollars. Rainy days ruin picnics, and cause the cancellation of junior football matches. Windy days make people crazy. Cold snaps mean we fire up our various heating devices, as do heatwaves necessitate more power for cooling. Electricity costs money and, is mostly generated by coal fired power stations in Australia. Shame on us. Why can't we control the elements and live more low or zero cost, 'minimal impact on the environment' lifestyles?

The Chilean ash cloud is a curiosity to me. I was fascinated to learn that it is largely composed of bits of pulverised rock and glass, and amazed when it circumnavigated the globe and then did it again. Cool. My interstate plans were not interrupted. I didn't lose any money or any sleep. It had no effect whatsoever on my life other than the fact that I had to listen to, and watch dull, repetitive news reporting on the issue. Usually we get a break in the news cycle between stories of similar or identical bent, but within a week of the first load of tripe about the ash cloud and the poor little aeroplanes which couldn't fly through or around or under it, we received more of the same riveting coverage delivered by beautiful reporters standing in airports.

We care most about what directly affects us most. While it is easy to feel great sadness and genuine empathy for a woman in Japan whose whole family was killed and her house completely destroyed by the tsunami, that emotion is nothing compared with the grief the woman herself feels and will always feel because of what the Earth did to her. This is not intended to be a lesson on perspective. Perspective lessons suck! I'm into sympathy and empathy. Telling someone that there are people worse off than them, is patronizing and insulting. My point is that we cannot totally control what happens to us, and there are times when we should just accept that fact, and stop trying so hard to be masters of our own destinies.

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