Volcanic Ash – Crying Wolf Again or Real Threat? 103

There is a danger that the stage has been reached when we automatically disbelieve the government when it warns of a great danger. I believe, for example, that climate change is a great danger. Quite a lot of my friends, however, are dubious partly because the government is pushing it.

Consider the really major government scares of the last few years – things which were supposed to result in the death of millions – which proved to be nothing like the threat alleged. SARS, avian flu and swine flu all come instantly to mind. And what about the most ramped threat of all, the War of Terror, said by Tony Blair to be an “existential threat” and by John Reid to be a threat “On the scale of World War 2”.

There is an absolutely clear history of governmental over-exaggeration of threat, but also that governments have no difficulty in finding backing for this fear-mongering from government scientists and both techincal and inter-governmental international bodies. There are always virologists, vulcanologists and security experts willing to go on TV and tell us we are all doomed (oh, and can they get a bigger research grant to combat the threat).

So when the government promotes a big threat, I am conditioned to scepticism, even before British Airways flew a jumbo jet around for hours yesterday with the Chief Exec on board (after similar incident free test flights by other European airlines).

It turns out that the repeatedly quoted occasion when a BA flight lost power in all four engines due to volcanic dust, was a case of flying right through the plume close to the volcano in Indonesia. When you think about it, the fact that you can do something as extreme as that and nobody be hurt, is comforting rather than worrying.

As for widely dispersed ash, I have been wondering how Indonesia and Hawaii and Sicily ever manage flights. Why was there not a massive whole continent air lockdown after the vastly greater ash flown out by Mount St Helens?

As a society we have become risk averse to an unrealistic degree. We seem to spend our lives in a permanent state of cringe. Perhaps the ash really is too dangerous: but I see no reason to automatically believe the government on the subject.

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103 thoughts on “Volcanic Ash – Crying Wolf Again or Real Threat?

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  • brian

    Surely it’s outrageous to question the motives of the government regarding the closure of UK airspace. Let’s face it, 99% of us haven’t got a clue about the technical problems involved, if we didn’t have a government to look after us we could all be falling out of the sky like lemmings off a cliff.

    Someone on five live today was complaing that some rich people were able to hire their own planes/pilots to beat the ban. Instead of moaning we should face up to the fact that outside a few elite people most of us are better off with politicians protecting our interests with appropriate scientific advice. What’s wrong with a little trust in authority?

    Remember our leaders are on our side at the end of the day.

  • Anonymous

    “..wise enough to know that load of religious hogwash isn’t going to fly in any sane country” – Glenn on Larry

    I thought “religious hogwash” was quite popular on this blog? Step forward Ano and Arselan…

  • KingofWelshNoir

    ‘I don’t in the least believe the proneness to unnecessary alarmism is malicious or an evil conspiracy. It is a result of an excessive nannying attitude… ‘

    What about the time Tony Blair sent the tanks to Heathrow? Was that just excessive nannying?

  • Anonymous

    What would the Typhoons do if Russian fighters entered British airspace. Best funny response wins a Typhoon courtesy of HM Government

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Tea, anyone?

    There’s a very good mini-supermarket close to the Vauxhall Tube Station in London. It sells both excellent and cheap brands of tea.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    What’s happened to ‘John Cord’? Popped-up once, issued a threat, then disappeared. Does he sip tea, too? We need to pay attention to Ole John Cord, you know. He sells lots and lots of cheap tea at knock-down prices. Mister Cord does make an exceedingly good cup of tea. There are a number of John Cords extant today, so much so, one might mistake it for a supermarket chain.

    The difference is, Mr Cord’s tea is brewed from blood.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I’ve always thought that loose tea tasted best. I’ve heard, too that tea-bags are just the gatherings from the floor.

    Does anyone have an opinion on tea?

    Always remember, Mr Cord is listening.

  • MJ

    “Does anyone have an opinion on tea?”

    I’m very partial to Earl Grey. Having a cup now in fact.

  • crusty

    Tea bags could easily be fitted in jet intakes to filter out the volcanic ash particles. If the pilots can avoid flying through rain clouds the tea will still be safe to brew afterward as is not toxic.

  • glenn

    I always go for fair trade tea myself. Same with coffee, as long as it’s reasonably strong. But sorry to digress, we were talking about one’s preference on teabagging, not coffee-making.

  • Anonymous

    Coffee is a holy drink for us Muslims.

    Legion has it that a saint found it difficult to pray during the nights, in a dream he was told that if he makes a drink out of the fruit of the coffee plant and drink it, he would be able to pray all night.

    It is why the Malaysia/Indonesia converted to Islam.

    A Yemeni trader sailed to make contracts to sell coffee. after making the contracts he went back to Yemen to collect the coffee which he has sold. When he returned to Malaysia, coffee prices had gone up by a lot so people assumed he would break the contract and charge a higher price. He refused and sold the coffee at the agreed price. His customers asked him why he was doing this and he said Islam doesn’t allow him to break contracts.

    People asked him about his religion and converted. the King of the area found out about the incident and asked him about what happened and Islam, so he told the king about Islam and the king converted. Overtime the population and neighbouring kingdoms followed.

    I personally don’t like coffee myself, I’m a tea drinker.

  • Neil Craig

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”Henry Louis Mencken..

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