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Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Praise of Volcanoes

While I know the Icelandic Volcano is spewing out whacks of greenhouse gasses I do see an upside to these disruptive outbursts which might modify human behavior in the region for quite some time.

I looked up the history for this volcano and among the 3 previously recorded eruptions from Eyjafjallajokull there was one that lasted from 1821-1823 which makes me question the claims "it will only last a few days more" as pure hope. It's also important to note that Eyjafjallajokull is often a prelude to a bigger eruption from Katla so this may not only stay bad longer than the media claims but could also get much worse. Sure it might stop in the next 5 minutes but just imagine the carnage that 2 years of cancelled or reduced European flights will cause the airline industry, I'm almost giddy just thinking about it.

The International Air Transport Association said on Thursday that the eruptions could cost the airlines industry up to $200 million per day and it would only take a few days for some airlines to run out of money and of course be looking for government handouts. In my opinion this industry has been sick for a long time and this is just the thing to put the last nails in the coffin. Sure some will get bailed out but I expect many more will fold changing the face of Air travel. Do they even sell volcano insurance?

So what will happen if this lasts a couple of months? First the companies will start whining for bailouts but before this money can even be promised the smaller or high debt carriers will close or file for protection. Later, less carriers will mean less seats available and less competition. When you combine less competition with the limited number of flights getting off the ground the prices will eventually skyrocket. In the long run we could see a return to the kind of luxury pricing seen in the 60s and 70s for air travel. Higher prices and constant flight cancellations will make Air Canada look well run. People will either be unable to fly in Europe or simply give up trying as the frustration sets in.

Don't think this will only impact Europe either; big North American airlines with European routes are also taking loses and while they might eat these for a while eventually domestic prices will creep higher to cover loses.

If this lasts long enough it could bring a lot of people to their senses or simply price their current behavior out of reach. Air travel is a huge polluter and since governments will not take action on atmospheric pollutants or take the threat of peak oil seriously I hope Eyjafjallajokull throws a wrench into the status quo. What improvements would the environment see if people started to vacation locally, do business electronically rather than travel or grow their own damn flowers and lettuce instead of flying them in from Kenya and Chile. Peak Oil ensures the relocalization will be part of our future and these eruptions might just begin to modify some of these unsustainable behaviors now.

Yes, the volcano's emissions are going to play havoc with the atmosphere and peoples health and that's sad, but volcanoes go off every year and usually inconvenience few if any because of their remoteness. If we have to have an eruption I'd prefer we have it where it can cripple an unsustainable industry and alter peoples behaviors. A small burp from Etna or Yellow Stone wouldn't hurt either.

I just tripped over this chart claiming that the volcano is actually puting out less green house gasses than the airline industry its disrupting., man does this get any better?

Of course Harper could throw caution to the wind and fly to Poland anyway,, but that's too much to hope for.

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deBeauxOs said...

While the silver lining to this cloud may be a reduction in aircraft traffic, the disastrous side to months of dense, particle-laden skies over Europe would be health concerns such as impaired breathing as well as the effect upon agriculture.

Be careful what you wish for.

The Mound of Sound said...

"imagine the carnage that 2 years of cancelled or reduced European flights will cause the airline industry"

The carnage would be far more widespread than just the airline industry. Few truly grasp how vulnerable Western economies are to disruptions such as this. It makes air transport a vital and integral part of civilization as we've pumped it up today.

I see the disruption caused by this volcano as symptomatic of the greater vulnerability of our global economy in which we have no Plan "B" to address these things.

Canadian silver bug/Green Assassin Brigade said...

Oh I think I understand fully the implications and I've writen on complexity and intercomplexity of society and how precarious our hold on it is, hence my "I'm a doomer logo."

That said, I'm also getting very Derrick Jesnsen about the whole human condition,, the sooner the collapse comes the more carrying capacity of this planet we will save as well as more bio diversty.

We are at the point where people have to adapt or get out of the way because change will come reguardless. I say bring it on.

The Mound of Sound said...

I tend to agree with you on the inevitability point but I part company on the notion of hastening collapse.

There is an enormous amount to be done before that day arrives if only to maintain some semblance of global security during the collapse. If not, we face the uncontrollable options set out so well by Gwynne Dyer in his book "Climate Wars."

I don't think we're going to engage with adaptation and remediation until the very last minute, possibly until it's far too late, because they'll be extremely costly and could fatally undermine our 18th century capitalist economies.

Air Tickets India said...

It really affected airlines as well passengers.....Hoping it will not affect that much to over global warming. :)

出会い said...