Friday, May 20, 2005


We all live on the planet earth. Some people want to go to Mars but so far, humans exist only on the earth except for two people struggling with the oxygen generator in the space colony. Since we live on this planet, we should be interested on what it is doing, more or less. Like the sun, it isn't a good idea to ignore the earth.

The Boxing Day earthquake/tsunami was a great event. We learned several months ago that it was so big, it changed the planet's speed of rotation, even. This is something big on any scale. It caused a tidal wave that swamped a good part of the planet and killed more people than any disaster outside of war in the last 100+ years.

Of course, humans killing each other way out do anything Nature has devised, so far.
The earthquake that triggered Asia's deadly tsunami in December was more powerful than scientists originally estimated, according to new studies published in Friday's edition of Science.

"The Earth is still ringing like a bell today," nearly six months after the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, Roland Burgmann, professor of earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, told the journal.
I have noted before this "ringing like a bell". Visitors to Iris seismic monitor can clearly see this in action. I have never seen so many earthquakes so frequently for so long in my life and watching this stuff is an old hobby.
According to the study, researchers now believe the quake had a magnitude of 9.15. Initial measurements put the quake at 9.0 on the Richter scale, making it the fourth-largest quake since 1900.

Burgmann said adjustments in the earth's mantle could have triggered a magnitude 8.7 earthquake in the same area on March 28.

The quake also set records for the longest fault rupture and the longest duration of faulting, the researchers reported.

Burgmann and other scientists who studied data from the quake found it caused deformations of the earth's crust as far away as 2,800 miles -- five or six times the deformations caused by previous big quakes, the study said.
Wow. Just wow. Only a meteor strike can beat this earthquake's deformation of the crust of the earth.
In another study published in Friday's edition of Science, Yale University professor Jeffrey Park said the quake's rupture moved giant slabs of rock a record distance, equivalent to moving from Florida to New England.
I said, back in December, parts of the ocean moved a tremendous distance. Picturing this latest information makes one wince. We are so fortunate this didn't happen to the Mid Atlantic Ridge...which has happened in the past. There are boulders all over the Caribbean islands deposited at the highest points that came from the ocean's bed, put there by giant tidal waves.

The earth is not done ringing, either.

Here is another earth story, this time about inland water:
It may sound redundant, but the Dead Sea, one of the world's cultural and ecological treasures, is dying. In the last 50 years, the water level has dropped more than 80 feet and the sea has shrunk by more than a third, largely because the Jordan River has gone dry. In the next two decades, the sea is expected to fall at least 60 more feet, and experts say nothing will stop it.

The decline has been particularly rapid since the 1970s, when the water began dropping three feet a year. That created a complex domino effect that is slowly destroying some of Israel's most cherished plant and wildlife reserves along the Dead Sea's shores, a key resting stop along the annual migration route for 500 million birds that fly between Europe and Africa. The receding waters have left huge mud flats with hundreds of sinkholes that threaten to collapse roads and buildings and have forced a development freeze on Israel's side of the sea, which lies on the border with Jordan.
This problem, like many eco problems, extends very far indeed. It changes ancient balances of nature and can cause extinctions, a very serious matter indeed.
The main problem, experts agree, is that most of the water that once flowed into the sea -- the saltiest large body of water in the world and, at 1,371 feet below sea level, the lowest point on Earth -- is being diverted for drinking water and agriculture, so there is not enough to offset the high evaporation rate. In addition, Israeli and Jordanian industries on the south end of the sea are letting 180 million gallons of the mineral-rich water evaporate every day -- about 66 billion gallons a year -- to extract chemicals.

"The situation of the Dead Sea is something that happened because there's a water shortage and it's needed for other uses," Cohen said. "You can say, 'Don't think of anything else. Let the Dead Sea have the water,' but no one will listen. They'll say, 'So we won't have water in Tel Aviv or the Negev or where?' "
OK. The "drinking water and agriculture" stuff. Ahem, time for a lecture!

The European colonizers who went into the sleepy backwaters of the Ottoman empire decided to turn it into a replica of Germany. Germany has a totally different climate but these settlers were very proud of the idea that they could alter the environment to mimic their homelands. Everyone decided to do the same to the point that Saudi Arabia today is trying to grow wheat in a desert, for example.

This ludicrious use of natural resources has many down sides just like in California, for example. It leaches hard minerals in the soil and dessicates natural rivers like the Colorado River.

And the "drinking water" excuse. I grew up in the desert. When I was a child, we used out houses. These were cleaned out periodically and the waste used as fertilizer in the garden after baking in the sun for several years. Simple. Then we lived in a proper house built on the Victorian manner: flush toilets.

This monstrosity came about because London was on many rivers and the Thames. Everything was flushed away with the abundant water. So Water Closets were invented. This was all bad for the environment but at least wasn't fatal.

Tucson can't afford to waste water. So why are water flushing toilets legal? We could have compost toilets. But they are illegal, not the wasteful, destructive water toilets. America spends a fortune cleaning out the waste from water toilets when we could be fertilizing gardens with our own waste, ourselves. In the Middle East, this is a huge catastrophe that is going to render the place uninhabitable in the not far future. There is no way flush toilets should exist there at all.

The poisoned Salton Sea and the poisoned Dead Sea are signs of human activity running out of control, the long term effects dire. The solution ridiculously simple. Will people figure this out in time?

Culture of Life prays they do.

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