All These Earthquakes Are No Joke July 9, 2010Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Random Observations.
Doesn’t it seem as though in 2010, we’re hearing about earthquakes, like, every other day? . . . I just ran across a graph provided by The Horizon Project, based on data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey. The graph you’ll see below covers the period 1900 through 2008.
Are you startled? I have to say, I was startled as hell.
My husband has a theory. He thinks that there’s a direct correlation between the dramatic increase in seismic activity since 2000 with the dramatic increase in drilling worldwide, especially deep-sea drilling. Today there are more than 3,000 deep-sea drilling projects going on worldwide, most notably in the Gulf of Mexico [I sob!], the Persian Gulf, the Niger Delta, and the North Sea. Even as I type these words, BP is working on another Deepwater Horizon, only this one in Alaska, where rescue efforts will be much more difficult. I’m serious. They’ve gotten around the off-shore drilling laws by creating an artificial “island” for their base of operations. They can’t fix one disaster, but they’re eager to court another.
Along with these active projects, there are tens or hundreds of thousands of inactive projects around the world — old, spent wells, wells that were temporarily abandoned, wells that were permanently abandoned. There are 27,000 such wells in the Gulf of Mexico alone. An estimated 4,500 of these wells may be vulnerable to another Deepwater event.
In the Gulf of Mexico alone. Oil wells alone. Deep-sea oil wells. We drill in shallow water, too. We’ve done tons of drilling on land as well. And tons of mining.
You probably remember from second-grade science that the Earth’s crust covers a great boiling layer of magma, and you may have a hazy idea that the crust is uniformly thick, like the skin of an orange. In which case you’d be wrong. In some places it’s enormously thick, but in some places it’s frighteningly thin. Iceland is one of those places, and we’ve all noticed what happened in Iceland recently. Other places where the crust is scary-thin include the New Madrid fault (the intersection between Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee), Yosemite (northern California), and parts of the Philippines and of Indonesia.
One year in the Brownies, we made pomander balls. We started with oranges, and used toothpicks to prick hundreds of holes into each orange. Into each hole we stuck a clove, until each orange was a sphere of cloves with an orange inside. (I was so proud of myself for abandoning my toothpick for a fork, quadrupling my efficiency!) Wrap it in gauze, tie it shut with a pretty ribbon, hang it in your closet or put it in a drawer. It’ll smell of oranges and cloves for decades.
Think of the Earth as one of these pomander-ball oranges, only without quite so many holes, and with relatively few of those holes plugged. The peel of the orange would be the Earth’s crust. And the thickness of the peel varies. Inside is not sweet, delicious orange, but boiling magma, the kind the inhabitants of Pompeii and Krakatoa encountered. The magma is under enormous pressure, the kind of pressure that makes the precautions BP took against catastrophe look like plugging the hole with a wad of chewing gum. Like plugging a fire hose with a giant marshmallow. And we’re busily drilling, jabbing ever more holes into our “orange,” and never really wondering what “juices” might come bursting out.
The pressure of the magma varies, depending on factors like the thickness of the crust above it and unequal distribution of mass around it. These varying pressures are called pressure gradients. My husband wants to know, and is researching: Is anyone keeping track of what all our drilling is doing to the world’s pressure gradients? For example, what is all the release of pressure that’s been going on in the Gulf of Mexico doing to other parts of the world?
There’s a giant pocket of methane gas under the Gulf of Mexico. Since April 20, I have read more than one alarmist web page about what would happen if the weakened floor of the Gulf collapsed and this giant pocket of methane erupted. Florida would be wiped out, so as a Floridian, I don’t have to worry: I’ll be dead. But maybe some speculator should start buying beachfront property in Topeka.
We’re all familiar with the San Andreas fault, but it is by no means the only vulnerable place in the U.S. If the New Madrid fault goes, there’ll be a giant caldera where Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee used to be. If Yosemite goes, ditto for northern California and Nevada, and Old Faithful will be faithful no more.
Planet Green recently ran a documentary, “The Age of Stupid,” that made Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” look as cheerful and upbeat as a sex education film for six-year-olds. Unless humanity changes its ways dramatically by 2015, it will be too late: all life on Earth will be extinct by 2065. And please, who believes we’re going to change our ways dramatically by 2015? The Greedy Oil Plutocrats are already howling to resume deep-sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, while attempts to stop the catastrophe in the Gulf are still going on. Voters keep electing flat-Earthers who believe the Universe was created on October 23, 4004 BCE, there is no global warming, there is no evolution, gays should be denied the right to enter into certain legal contracts, and women should be denied the right to control their own bodies. Oh, and that Big Oil doesn’t need to be regulated, because the Invisible Hand will come and save us.
The bees are disappearing. Some people think it’s cell phones, but both providers and users pooh-pooh the very idea. Myself, I think it’s cell phone beams, radar beams, satellite transmissions, GPS beams, satellite TV beams, the ever-present hum of alternating current, and who knows what more. I think the poor bees want to head for the hills but get disoriented by “The Hills.” But what does it matter? The disappearance of the bees means that a fourth to a third of all species of flowering plants will soon be extinct.
And has anyone noticed that the ten hottest years in the history of the planet have all taken place since 1999? That the 20 hottest years have all taken place since about 1985? Does it occur to anyone that in the year 1 CE, there were about 20 million human beings on the face of the planet, and in 2010 there are about seven BILLION, most of us generating 98.6 degrees or more at all times (not to mention the heat from all our compost!). That there were 31 named hurricanes in 2005?
I am terrified that the ongoing BP disaster is, at long last, the definitive end of the world. As I write, it’s day 80 (July 8), and there are at least 180 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. If BP’s relief wells fail, there will be 600 million gallons in the Gulf by January 1, and a cool billion by April 20, 2011. If unchecked, the catastrophe could continue for 30 years.
The oil will snake around the Florida keys, then hug the eastern seaboard of the United States, sliming Rush Limbaugh’s four beachfront mansions in Florida, sliming Georgia, sliming South Carolina, and finally sliming North Carolina and southern Virginia before branching off to poison the mid-Atlantic. This is already known. Only a few hundred miles of the west coast of Florida will be spared the oil. The few unpoisoned forms of sea life will amass within about a hundred miles of Tampa Bay, breathe all the oxygen out of the remaining unpoisoned water, and suffocate.
Can the world survive a poisoned Gulf of Mexico, a poisoned Caribbean, a poisoned Atlantic? On top of the devastation caused by global warming, the devastating hurricanes and tornadoes, the record cold in one hemisphere to counterbalance the record heat on the other side of the globe, the droughts and floods? The deformed frogs, the dying bees? The shrinking rainforests, the dramatic upsurge in leukemias near electromagnetic fields? The belief of some scientists that in about ten years, there will be an epidemic of brain cancer caused by cell phone use?
And on top of all this, the Earth is like a water balloon under enormous pressure, only with magma instead of water. And humanity is punching holes in the balloon just as fast as our greedy, selfish, profit-worshipping drills can punch. I am dreadfully afraid that this time, we’re going to fly around the Universe backwards three times. I am dreadfully afraid that any time now, we’ll see all the remaining dolphins in the world rising into the air and saying, “So long, and no thanks for poisoning all those fish.”