Sunday, May 01, 2011

I'm watching Mt. St. Helens: Back from the Dead. The message is probably not what the film makers would have thought.

What I demonstrates is that even an event far more devastating than mankind is capable of inflicting, nature recovers without much intervention from us. The scene after the mountain's 1980 eruption in some places resembled a moonscape. Nothing but gray ash. Other areas were flattened forests, barren pyroclastic flows, and once sparkling mountain lakes and streams choked with dead trees, mud and dead animals.

But today, the area blasted by the eruption is covered with green, as plants and animals are returning. The mountain itself, in the crater, still looks barren and has created a new lava dome with new material pushing up from the magma chamber below. But these are not ominous since they have lost the gas bubbles from water mixing with magma that creates the explosive force behind the eruption.

The fact is that what are catastrophic events on our human time scale, are healed and recovered by nature. A similar message came from the sites of previous oil spills like the Exxon Valdez and oil well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico. Nature can heal itself. The real damage is to people in the vicinity. This makes sense because volcanoes, oil, tzunamis, earthquakes, landslides are all natural phenomena that have been erupting, spilling and happening throughout the life of the planet. We're not going to kill the earth, even if we wanted to. We can only make things less hospitable to our species and some others. That realization should humble us, but also make us less fearful of using the energy resources the planet provides us. Eventually, we'll move from using fossil fuels, although gas is continuously being produced at the bottom of our oceans, and could be hazardous if we don't find a way to draw it off and use it.

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