The Year is Complete!

Please feel free to look back through the 365 days of 2010 sunrises, but "a year of getting up to meet the day" is officially completed. There will be no more new posts.


Thank you so much for visiting.
A one year blog project in which I share a process of transitions: emptying of the nest, reacquainting with my rusty intellect, plowing onward with my first full length book, entering the second half of my first century, and generally reflecting on life.

(see Dec. 29th, 2009 entry for further explanation)

Friday, June 4, 2010

mother earth, bleeding

sunrise:  4:51

It has been 35 days now that our country has been coping with the mess in the Gulf of Mexico, and now they're talking about some kind of fix by August.  If you're interested, here is a timeline of the debacle.

I realize that I'm asking a question in ignorance, but has anyone ever considered the possibility that the Earth formed all of this oil deep in its crust 300 million years ago for some kind of global purpose?  Might those layers of oil serve as a part of the general stability of the planet, somehow?

As a believer in the fundamental practicality of Mother Earth, in nature's innate instinct for adaptation and survival, I can't help wondering if we're missing something crucial.  Human beings have accelerated the process of change and have exploited resources at a rate that is surely beyond what the earth's natural state was programmed for. 

What is oil for?  It's a byproduct of decomposition, but what purpose might it fill for the Earth, rather than for us?

The pictures and descriptions of the the plumes, the furling clouds of black gunk spewing out of the sea floor seem like a wound in the earth's skin.  The earth is bleeding, profusely, and it's all our fault.  How much can it stand?

Another thing I'd like to know -- I keep hearing that this is the worst oil spill in US history, but there have been WAY worse ones around the world.  Here is an article from 2007 recounting the 12 worst oil spills in history.  Why are we not hearing about the fallout from those?  What did they do?  How did they clean up?  Why do we keep doing this!??!!!  How can we stop?  Is there any hope at all that the world can temper its appetite for energy consumption?

We've got to find alternatives and leave the oil alone. 


  1. Here's a top-10 list with a little more detail about cleanup and consequences:

    What most people forget about the Gulf of Mexico is that there are natural seepages going on all of the time, so there are natural mechanisms to deal with the oil, as long as we can keep it away from the shoreline. (Which, quite frankly, this administration appears to have no interest in doing, or is too incompetent to.)

    As for what purpose that Earth might have for the oil, that's too metaphysical for me, I'm just a chemist (and really, we shouldn't anthropomorphize the planet, it leads to logic errors). What I do know though, is that for the foreseeable future, fossil fuels are our only answer. There is no solar, wind, or magic unicorn farts that can take their place. We can shift to more coal and nuclear (and we should), but those each have their own array of problems, and won't eliminate the need for oil and gasoline. And even if WE change, others with greater energy appetites are not going to change, and the problem will remain.

  2. Thanks! very helpful insights.

    I wasn't meaning to anthropomorphize the earth. I really see it as a finite system, created under some physical properties that led to its balanced state, compatible with life as it stands. So - can't you imagine that whatever properties of physics and science led to its multi-billion year history included an evolution-like tendency to evolve toward self-sustainability? ie - by-products have an ultimate purpose for the long term survival of the system?

    Is that metaphysical? or just evolutionary science?

  3. Metaphysical, I think. :)

    The Earth is a finite system, but it is not a *closed* system. That is an important distinction, as it precludes equilibrium. It is not a "balanced" or static system; it is in constant flux, driven by heat from the sun as well as internal geophysical forces (heat from the core, plate tectonics, volcanic forces, etc), and it additionally responds to other outside forces like cosmic rays. It is not self-sustainable. The sun has a finite amount of hydrogen fuel and will eventually go nova and then go out; the planetary core has a finite amount of (non-sustainable) heat that will eventually bleed away to space. Changes to the system can occur slowly, like the oscillation of ice ages and interstitial warming periods, or they can go rapidly, as with super volcano eruptions (like what nearly killed off the human race ~70k years ago) or meteor strikes (like what killed off the dinosaurs ~65m years ago).

    Life "as it stands" is not static either. 99.999% of all species that have ever existed are extinct, and died long before humans came on the scene. Looked at over long enough periods of time, there is no bright line to distinguish between a species and it's progeny that have been split off by geology or climate, and as the planet continues to change, all species of life will as well. The ~10k years of human civilization is the blink of an eye on the scale of Earth's 4.5b year existence and any stability is the illusion we create being relatively short lived.

    I could be wrong of course, as there is always the possibility of new information, but I would say that while Earth supports life, it is not itself alive; and therefore could not have any "ultimate purpose" in mind. There are many planets in the universe, but life appears to be extremely rare. Just because there is one niche that we know of where sentience evolved, doesn't mean the the niche itself is sentient...