Sunday, 18 April 2010

Gaia's Revenge?

It seems rather fitting that media concerns about the impact of the ever-increasing impact of aircraft emissions on the planet's climate have been replaced, this week, by stories of the planet decimating European air transport (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/news/article7101162.ece). It certainly seems extreme anthropomorphism to accuse the Earth of using the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland to bring the airlines to their knees but this natural event has had wide-ranging effects on business travel, holiday makers, sports participants and their watchers, entertainers, suppliers of top of the range foods (e.g. asparagus from Chile) and growers of flowers (e.g. roses from Kenya). There is even concern that some airlines may not survive this event (it is not even the case that only European airlines are at risk). Of course (swings and roundabouts), some bodies (e.g. Eurotunnel, ferry services, small private planes, powerboats and taxis- all with their own environmental impacts) are doing booming business as a result of the curtailing of flights. It does seem rather strange that we have developed a reliance on a technology (the turbo-prop) that is so vulnerable to volcanic dust clouds (after all, volcanoes are not incredibly rare events). The whole event confirms, however, how easily our 'modern' transport systems are disrupted. Things could get even worse if Eyjafjallajokull triggers its bigger (and usually more active) neighbour Katla to erupt. It is also an illustration of how human activities associated with large 'carbon footprints' are the most vulnerable. There will, in addition to the financial and physical suffering of the travelling public and their carriers, be lots of relatively poor people (e.g. suppliers of ecotourism services, workers on remote plantations for high quality products, educational establishments and conference organizers) who also 'feel the pinch'.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

My thoughts have been running on similar lines all week. But what 'teeth' do waders have when reclamations remove their foraging sites... of particular concern to me is the migratory species like the Bar-Tailed Godwit that travel the Asia-Pacific Flyway. Five weeks stopover en route a year at the mouth of the Yalu River is critical to their success, yet goes almost unnoticed by the most locals.

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