March 20, 2005


Sermon on the Mount a global scare too far (George Kerevan, The Scotsman, March 17th, 2005)

Spring arrived this week with gentle hope and lots of daffodils. As I skipped along the road to The Scotsman, I felt euphoric at the turn of the seasons and the bounty of Mother Nature. Then I got to the local paper shop.

Emblazoned on the front pages were pictures of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, minus its iconic halo of pristine snow. The headlines screamed that these dramatic photos were a grim warning of the end of the world through human-induced global warming. The leaders of the G8 countries, about to meet in Scotland, were enjoined to put action on climate change at the top of their agenda before more naked Kilimanjaros appeared.

The apocalyptic tone was set for the rest of the week. The BBC ran hours on the notion that a giant volcano under Yellowstone Park in America was about to destroy the human race: "This is a true story; it just hasn’t happened yet."

Why is my enjoyment of spring being interrupted with lurid tales of the end of the world?

The story begins back in 1980. Before then, science was dominated by something called uniformitarianism, meaning the evolution of the Earth and its biosphere was a long, slow process in which change was microscopic yet relentless. Then, in 1980, an American scientist called Luis Alvarez came up with the theory that the dinosaurs might have been wiped out in one fell swoop by a gigantic asteroid. Alvarez spawned a new generation of young scientists who, eager for research grants, quickly dumped uniformitarianism in favour of catastrophism.

This is the notion that the Earth has been subject to repeated, instantaneous makeovers courtesy of falling rocks, Hollywood-sized volcanoes, or - in its latest incarnation - the perfidious, climate-wrecking activities of multinational capitalism led by George Bush. Catastrophism is the new scientific consensus, and reject it at your reputational peril.

Of course, humans like a dramatic narrative and it’s more fun to think that TRex was killed off in an afternoon than pooped as a species by old age. Besides, those graphic photographs of Mount Kilimanjaro are definitely a smoking gun as regards global warming, aren’t they?

Well, actually, no. Kilimanjaro is five times higher than Ben Nevis. At an altitude of nearly three miles, it is always below zero in temperature. The snow is disappearing on Kilimanjaro, but not primarily because of so-called global warming, and very few reputable scientists have ever claimed otherwise. In other words, the Guardian front page on Monday was a complete distortion of the truth.

Thus Kilamanjaro and Yellowstone join The Great Barrier Reef, The Maldives and The Arctic as prime targets of Mother Nature’s vengeful and selective campaign to punish global capitalism by wiping out exotic Western tourist destinations. You are hereby formally warned to give DisneyWorld a pass until further notice.

Posted by Peter Burnet at March 20, 2005 6:14 PM

Omigod. We're all gonna die!

Posted by: ghostcat at March 20, 2005 7:18 PM

The Yellowstone collapse caldera has been known since the mid-1980s.Last I heard, the buildup to a cataclysmic eruption there will take centuries to develop, preceeded by minor activity like that seen from any volcanic system. It's not suddenly gonna go BOOM! some night. The so-called 600k year interval, and that we are "due", is also so much numerology.

That this geological extreme scenario has suddenly been discovered as another way for Gaia and Mommy Dirt to spank humanity shows how desperate these people are for their false gods to put in some sort of appearance.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 20, 2005 8:41 PM

I'm trying to figure why the Yellowstone "Super Volcano" is part of this discussion.
There's surely nothing "man-made" about it, nor is there anything humankind, Hollywood fantasies notwithstanding, will be able to do about it in the forseeable future.
I mean, it's there, it's gone off before, it makes Mt. St. Helens, Krakatoa and Santorini look like a science fair exhibit in your local jr. high.
It's a fact of nature, and, even tho the timing is unfathomable, as is the great West Coast earthquake, it is coming. If not in our lifetimes, do we then abdicate any responsibility in planning for same?

Posted by: Mike Daley at March 20, 2005 8:47 PM

That's not good. I'm going to Disneyworld in May.

Posted by: Brandon at March 20, 2005 9:42 PM

I believe that we are several years "late' for the next 8.0+ earthquake along the New Madrid Fault as well. It was "due" in the '90's. Q- why is Gia, our pristine Mother withholding her righteous wrath against the evil capitalists in America? When will she "have enough" and whack the faces of those who ravage her so relentlessly?

Posted by: Dave W. at March 21, 2005 12:42 AM

At a press conference to announce a new airline, a guy named Stanley Koyanaga, who identified himself as a 'prophet,' announced that the world would end on June 26, at least here on Maui, with earthquakes and vocanic eruptions.

Don't put off your Maui vacation. Eat dessert first.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at March 21, 2005 11:37 PM