Earth’s warnings

‘Ash-mageddon’, ‘Quake-mageddon’ or Armageddon? What on Earth is going on?

As we mark the 20th annual celebration of Earth Day, today, it is fitting to ask whether our big blue planet is sending a message to human inhabitants.

Over the past decade this planet has summoned up a seemingly increasing number of deadly hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. At the same time scientists have been warning us about the mounting consequences of our actions as they impact climate change. So, while some point the finger directly at human activity, Nature herself is making her voice heard in critical ways.

Over the last week, Northern Europe has been focused on the effects of smoke and ash carried from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano by Gulf Stream wind currents. Even Newfoundland has been threatened. While there have been dire warnings about the harmful effects of breathing in the particulate contents of this very active volcano, the continuing eruptions have also resulted in a major disruption of air travel in, to and from Europe, affecting millions of travellers, something that has not occurred since the September 11, 2001 tragedy in the United States.

Is Mother Earth trying to send us a message?

According to scientists, industrialization and urbanization have had the unintended consequence of doing more damage in the past 200 years to the planet than any other period in Earth’s history. In fact, the human impact is so mighty that some scientists refer to our current geologic era as the “Anthropocene” Epoch in recognition of the phenomenon.

The list of ways that we in the modern world damage the planet to its, and our own, detriment is quite long, even as we continue to exploit it. Animal farming, combustion, construction, mining and warfare are among the chief culprits.

So, are predictions outlined in Revelations coming to pass? Whether we refer to The Bible as our historical source for the proclamation of human demise or we take our information from scientists and climatologists, the fact is the Earth’s climate is changing, and not for the better.

While the rhetoric points to climate change as a coming event, the fact is that the change is already here. For instance, there is abundant information showing that the Arctic region has warmed up to such a significant degree that the ecosystem there is now unstable.

Yet, instead of a concerted effort to preserve that environment, governments are typically angling to gain control over the region for its potential oil reserves, despite the fact that burning fossil fuels is part of the problem. Taking advantage of the melting of the ancient ice, the U.S., Canada and Russia are among the countries considering the possibility of new shipping lanes. Picture the greater damage to the already threatened Arctic environment if commercial ships start travelling through the region.

The critical question, therefore, is what are we doing about this growing crisis. When, for instance, will the cattle farming industry, one of the greatest causes of environmental degradation, get on board with agricultural technology that makes raising cattle sustainable with minimal or no damage to the environment? When will the mining industry, land developers and the institutions that regulate them begin to place the environment, if not ahead of, at least on par with profit?

One thing seems clear, Mother Earth is restless and we could consider that she is sending us a message that she is mad as hell about the way we humans are treating her.

This past week she decided to kick some ash.

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