Eyjafjallajokull Effects

April 17, 2010

Modernity was nice while it lasted, wasn’t it? An Italian friend called while I was bathing my son this evening. Due to the complete closure of British airspace after Eyjafjallajokull’s eurption, she’s stranded in Belfast, and was calling from the port, where she was on a waiting list for a boat crossing the Irish Sea to Liverpool. From there, she hopes to take a train down to London, stay with us for a night, and then assess her options for crossing the Channel before making her way by train, bus or foot back to Rome.

In the meantime, and thanks to the same unpronounceable volcano, I’ve been on hold with the Canadian branch of British Airways for more than an hour because my husband is stuck at a conference in Montreal. Some of his colleagues report that they’ve been allocated return flights to Europe in 10 days time. A ship could cross the Atlantic in less time: in fact, a trans-Atlantic passage from New York to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 takes less than 7 days (but would cost more than $3,000). I’m starting to wonder which century I’m living in. Even my great-aunt and her parents were able to fly from New York to Rome in 1950 (albeit with many re-fueling and meal stops along the way).

Other than the millions of stranded passengers contemplating pre-20th century modes of transport, the Icelandic volcano is having other, more global effects. Like potentially on global warming. Much reported in the news is the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions. A major eruption in the Philipines in 1991 apparently cooled the earth by almost 1 degree Farenheit, significantly more than humans have been able to manage by signing accords about carbon output.

While scientists suggest that so far, Ejafjallajokull’s eruption has been a) too small and b) not sulphuric enough to cool the earth’s temperature, I wonder if anyone has looked at the amount of carbon emissions saved by closing all air traffic in and out of Northern Europe for several days (or weeks?). Surely we’re doing something good for the planet by walking home from Belfast to Rome?