Sunday, November 2, 2008


Back in high school, one of the things that always stuck with me in Science lessons was how the Earth was in a constant state of change. Mountains erode, and rain washes the erosion into the sea where it turns into sediment, and after an Eon or two, plate tectonics turns it into dry land again, and maybe into a mountain if it gets folded enough. Animals live, they grow, predate on other things, then they die and are either consumed in their turn by other creatures, or the tissue is broken down into it's basic components and recycled.

I think I heard somewhere that in every breath we take we are rebreathing several molecules once exhaled by Leonardo Da Vinci. Everything we have is second hand. Our basic elements were created many billions of years ago in the heart of suns and supernovae (I am of the mind that there is nothing 'Intelligent' about 'Intelligent design', but that's just my opinion). Matter itself is said merely to be organised energy.

You might think stuff is the same as in your grandparents day, but if you look at the process of life, everything changes. Rivers change their courses. Volcanoes erupt or become quiescent. Deserts grow or shrink. Coral atolls grow on extrinct underwater peaks. Nothing stays the same. Things wear out and get fixed or rust. Eventually, Deep time makes basic elements of us all. Life is a massive recycling machine. Even our pollution eventually gets recycled, although it does a lot of damage in the short to medium term.

Ocean currents shift. An underwater landslide might block a deep water current so that is forces the flow towards the surface, the resultant upwelling might displace other currents which are local climate drivers. This might alter local rainfall for a few years causing local droughts or flooding. These mechanisms can and do occur. They are recorded both in scientific study and by historical anecdote. Mostly they stay local. For example, a number of small English fishing ports have been effectively turned into inland villages when storms have choked their harbours with sediment.

Now this isn't to say that humankind doesn't have an effect; it does. Local sea defences alter minor currents, shifting erosion patterns, creating and submerging low lying land. This is old tech. The Dutch have been reclaiming land for centuries. East Anglia has a great deal of land 'reclaimed' from the sea. Clear logging changes the transpiration patterns from trees affecting local rainfall. For example in BC the trees put out so much moisture after a wet day that you might be forgiven for thinking whole mountains are on fire.

Overgrazing can create deserts. Incidentally, it is a very bad idea to give a Goat to poor families in areas where the grazing is poor. Goats, in sufficient numbers, create deserts. Deserts and deforestation can create local climate variations. Enough of these variations can cause regional variations which can alter global climate. By contrast, variations in Solar output (Like the current minima) cool the Earth down and this can cause all sorts of effects which there is little or nothing humankind can do about.

As a child, I used to get all het up and anxious that the sun might stop working suddenly one day. No more sunlight. Everything freezes and everything dies. For several years I used to have periodic bouts of anxiety about this until I learned a little fatalism. Some have abandonment anxiety, some obsess about their appearance and social groups. I was fretting about the sun stopping working, go figure. I was about eight years old at the time. Serves me right for being such a bookish child.

I think what I'm trying to say is this; You can tax all you like. You can cut down as many forests as you like. It won't make a difference in the long term (Apart from make a lot of poor people poorer). We are part of the Earth. We affect, and are affected by Earth. Everything shifts, everything changes, there's nothing you can do long term but get used to it and enjoy the ride. It's called life. Douglas Adams (With whom I almost share a birthday) had it right in the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy. There's nothing you can do about it so don't panic. Or strive for the stars, which might not be such a bad idea.

Now I have to breakfast and walk Dog. Fall is a little more intense this year, a little cooler. I shall just wrap up warm and enjoy the scenery.

No comments: