The widespread reaction to the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, for that matter, points up what may just be the most deeply rooted of our superstitions, the belief that Nature can be ignored with impunity. It's only fair to point out that for most people in the industrial world, for most of a century now, this has been true more often than not; the same exuberant abundance that produced ski slopes in Dubai and fresh strawberries in British supermarkets in January made it reasonable, for a while, to act as though whatever Nature tossed our way could be brushed aside. In the emerging postabundance age, though, this may be the most dangerous superstition of all. The tide of cheap abundant energy that has defined our attitutdes as much as our technologies is ebbing now, and we are rapidly losing the margin of error that made our former arrogance possible.
What does it say about the state of our world when airlines don't have contingency plans for acts of Nature? Do they assume the skies they fly in are under human control? Or, if it's simply a case of not having enough savings to 'weather' the shutdown, how do they expect to continue to do business as we enter an era without cheap unlimited fuel? I know Westerners are accustomed to seeing travel as an inalienable right, but it's not.
I imagine it's the same arrogance that leads people to dam rivers and drain aquifers and build oil refineries in hurricane zones. At what point will we remember that we don't control nature?
Why is it we've heard more about the plight of the airlines with their lack of planning, than we have about the actual Icelandic people who are dealing with both an erupting volcano and a melting glacier?!
*sigh* I don't know, I thought I was going somewhere with this post, and it's turned into mostely rant.
Harnessing the power of petroleum gave us the muscle to bend Nature to our wills, but she's not down and she's not out and we're fast running out of cheap muscle. If acts of nature aren't part of your contingency plans now, they certainly should be. Happy Earth Day.