Kenneth Ballenegger

Angel Investor, Engineer, Startup Founder

After the volcano: Earthly powers

The Economist on our relationship to our planet:

There is no technology to plug volcanoes which pierce the earth’s crust, or to bind the faults which cause earthquakes. There is not yet even a science for predicting when faults and volcanoes will let loose. To that extent, mankind is still vulnerable to the vagaries of the planet. But the story of human development is one of becoming better at coping with them.

Death by disaster is in many ways a symptom of economic underdevelopment: witness the very different consequences of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. In general, richer places and richer people are better able to survive and rebound. More interconnections provide more ways to mobilise resources and explore alternatives when things go wrong. If the Eyjafjallajokull plume had been as risky as it first appeared and long-lived to boot, such interconnectedness would undoubtedly have provided ways to keep Europe supplied, though probably at substantial cost and with a fair bit of lasting disruption. The apparently sublime power of the volcano was largely the result of an initially supine reaction.

Another tasty bit:

This is worth applying to climate change. Many of Burke’s descendants find it difficult to believe that something as big as the earth’s climate could really be at risk from human activity, and even harder to think you could do something about it. But the risk, if not full certainty about its consequences, is there. Moreover, the idea of a counterbalancing, “geoengineered” cooling to counteract some aspects of climate change is worthy of study and discussion. Large volcanic eruptions spread cooling palls through the stratosphere. Techniques for doing something similar in a less dramatic way are plausible.

Originally, I had a 500-word response to this article, and while trying to safe as draft, chrome crashed. Suffice to say, it’s a very insightful article on our relationship to our home planet.