The Indonesian mud eruption, which continues unabated after six months, is contributing to the world's storehouse of scientific and philosophical knowledge almost as quickly as it's burying factories and towns under hot sludge. For example, the SF Chronicle has used data gleaned from the eruption to pinpoint the precise difference between an unfortunate accident and a mindboggling catastrophe:
Only the vast scale of the flow, which began when a gas borehole was sunk, distinguishes the disaster from hundreds of lesser ones blamed on Indonesian mining companies.That's a subtle difference indeed, and it's good to have it sorted out at last.
Refugees on the lake edge can point out the rooftops of their homes poking out of the 16-foot-deep, foul-smelling muck. Tests are being conducted to discover if the mud contains toxic chemicals.I'm glad to hear that they're testing the mud, especially now that it's 16 feet deep. There are health issues to consider, of course, but the presence of toxins could also complicate disposal. I don't know much about Indonesian environmental laws, but in the USA, most landfills would refuse to accept 175,000 cubic feet of toxic mud per day unless it were sited in a minority neighborhood.
One alternative would be to dump the mud into the sea, but that would provoke the wrath of environmentalist Chicken Littles:
The government's latest idea is to dump millions of tons of mud in a river flowing into the nearby sea, but environmentalists fear that could devastate fish stocks by fouling the waters.Those environmentalists are always afraid of something. Hell, I bet they were against the drilling too, despite its value to the local economy.
Have any of these alarmists ever stopped to consider that millions of tons of mud might not devastate fish stocks? For all we know, dumping could improve fish stocks, and help to feed the hungry on the other side of the world.
I just now asked a Javanese businessman what he thought about this theory, and his answer was reassuring:
You know, nature's going to respond to this mud eruption. It'll adapt on its own. What the eruption really represents is an economic issue. That's really what it is. How do we adapt to the millions of tons of hot, stinking mud that could be spewing out of this hole for decades? And how do we capitalize on that economic opportunity? And this is really, I think, where we're going to come ahead of the game because we're not looking at it as being a negative impact. It has a lot of positive impacts.This is absolutely correct. Many motivational speakers have observed that the Chinese word for "crisis" comprises the characters for "danger" and "opportunity." Although it's not true, it still teaches a valuable lesson about the importance of maintaining a spirit of can-do optimism when attempting to cash in on chaos and misery. Here are some folks who understand this perfectly:
A small army of spiritualists, religious worthies and psychics cast spells, prayers and incantations by moonlight on the stinking ooze, inspired by hopes of winning a 100 million rupiah (about $10,000) prize promised by a desperate village chief to anyone who can stop the mud.$10,000 is serious money in any man's English, so I'd like to take this opportunity to announce that as of...wait for it...1:45 PM PDT, I am praying fervently to Echidne for the mud to stop. In addition to being a goddess in her own right, she's on friendly terms with Lempo and his army of mooses, so you can pretty much consider this divine intervention a done deal. As soon as the flow ends, or even slackens appreciably, I'll expect the money to be wired into my bank account.