Friday, 30 April 2010

Ash? - What the 90's britpop band?

As the start of my endeavour to use this blog more for an outpouring of my thoughts and ideas (guru's of the t'interweb tell me this is what they are for), rather than pre-meditated articles (which eat into my other work time!) here are some thoughts about the Eyjafjallajökull eruption and subsequent disruption.

First off an apology to those who are still bitter about the events of recent weeks- however as the news broke that the recent eruption of the unpronounceable volcano had caused several UK airports to suspend flights, I couldn't hide a wry smile spreading across ma visage.

As the vapid media coverage began to scroll across the rolling news channels, claiming, "Chaos in the air across Europe!" - My smile broke into a smug chuckle...

This is not because I am a sadist who takes pleasure in hearing stories via facebook of friends being in airports for over 24 hours, but for the following reasons:

1.) - The headlines lie - there was no chaos in the air - the chaos was on firmly on terra firma. If you were to ask a migrating songbird, such as a willow warbler, returning from their winter retreats in N.Africa how their recent journey back was - they would tell you it was lovely and peaceful - not a human in the air! Although they may complain that if they went a bit too high it was a bit dusty...

2.) - For over 200 years now we humans have been arrogantly basking in our amazing achievements that help separate, and buffer, us from the wild savageness of nature. From medicine beating pathogens, to our ability (!?) to control rivers - by 1970 over 200,000 miles of US waterways had been modified by man.1

We enjoy reminding ourselves that we have subverted nature and that we are more than mere animals so much that it forms the central tenet of our major religions and even appears in our conservation efforts, often pretentiously called wildlife management - as if suddenly animals require a PA and spreadsheets to go about their business!

So when every once in a while - the earth reminds us of its awesome power - especially when it’s in a thoroughly modern way that highlights globalisation in many respects has made us less resilient (Eyjafjallaj√∂kull wouldn't have troubled the Victorian gentleman's business operations) then I have to just stand back and applaud, it can only ultimately help our progress as a species.

3.) - "We've paid 1000 Euros to get a taxi from Berlin." - "I've used 15 types of transport and not slept for 7 days getting from Trieste to Calais." - Or other general voxpops on the news.

How sheltered and stupid is the modern traveller!? - Europe has arguably one of the best rail networks in the world with hugely competitive prices. By all accounts even in the midst of the crisis several major routes such as those from Germany to France and even the Euro star weren't completely booked up! For a lovely account of the travel options see Hidden Europe.

Some people had the right idea such as one group of friends who simply informed their workplace of the situation and extended their holiday in Lisbon!

4.) - As the delays continued and folk realised that venting anger at a large magma chamber which only answers to the legislation of geophysical laws was fruitless, attention turned to the experts. Suddenly it was the politicians’ fault- why hadn't anyone questioned the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center's advice.

Calculating the risk (and therefore subsequent flight decisions) was getting passed up and down the chain faster than a game of pass the parcel on speed. The Met office (who controls the advice centre in London) hadn't tested flights, the politicians had other agendas, and the public were adamant they should be allowed their divine right of flight!

Whether a plane would have come down or not - are our capitalist lifestyles now too busy to accept an ashy gift from Mother Nature and take some time out?

If you are not like me and are a little bitter about experiences caused by oh her unpronounceable volcano in the land of ice - then maybe this will show you some positive did come out of huge waits in airports.

Comments as ever are welcome - until next time don't get vexed by the weather.

Alfie x
1 - Schoof, R. (1980): “Environmental Impact of Channel Modification,” Journal of the American Water
Resources Association, 16:4, 697-701


  1. I agree with this on the whole, although admittedly as an unaffected person. However, point 2 i'm not so sure that it takes a big volcano to realise this. A quick look back to last winter shows us how unprepared we are for even mildly unexpected weather conditions - winters are supposed to be cold & snowy after all!

    One more point is people who have been affected demanding compensation. Are we now a culture that can't accept a most basic axiom... that shit happens? It's no one's fault. Get over it & enjoy the extra few days holiday.


  2. For those who are interested in the whole volcanic ash shizz check out this podcast about it: