Interrupting Eruptions

By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times

Mount Soputan has spewed. Not cornflakes, fish and chips or margaritas from drinking all night. As the lava has been trickling down the side of the volcano in Sulawesi, residents are being warned to stay away from the base of the mountain. As if they’d venture into the hot lava anyway. But hey, these warnings make our government look good.

With the fear of an eruption, we might be tempted to think: Hasn’t Mother Nature hurled enough damage at Asia already this year? Cyclones, earthquakes – give us a break! And break, Mount Soputan may.

But you really can’t trust Mother Nature, who has been, apparently, a single mother all her life. I suppose it is politically incorrect to ask her where exactly Father Nature is. It makes you wonder if she isn’t hiding something. Perhaps she unfairly banished him to the mountains. Occasionally he gets angry and fumes. His anger spills over.

The question now is: Will Mount Soputan, a 1,783-meter-high stratovolcano, erupt? Recent eruptions include October 2007 and in 2004. This time, the mountain has only emitted ash, so the solution may simply be as simple as giving it an ashtray. If it starts hurling rocks, however, we might want to reconsider our strategy.

Stratovolcanoes are typical of subduction zones where tectonic plates come together under the ocean.  And Indonesia has the most active volcanoes of any country in the world. Eruptions will continue to interrupt. With all that hot air, you’d think all this volcanic activity would be the true source of global warming.

I was pondering lava while in the lavatory, and wondered if we could do something good with that hot, molten stuff. Maybe we just need to think of volcanoes more in terms of food. Here we have lava preheated to 1,000 degrees. Couldn’t we use all that stored heat for something? Villagers could build giant pizza ovens into the side of Mount Soputan and have a thriving tourist trade. After all, one of the main ingredients of pizza the earth has already given them: the crust. And with the earth’s crust and the ocean’s crust, they’d have two kinds of pizza: Terrestrial and subterranean. Try our sexy subterranean pizza — it’s very subductive!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When Mother Earth spews lava at you, make lava lamps.

Consider the populations living near active volcanoes. I imagine entire villages constantly performing sprints, 100-yard dashes and hurdles in preparation for the great Race against Time. When the big eruption comes, they will surely be ready to run from the lava flows. Depending on the viscosity of the flow, many of them can be outrun. If you’ve sufficiently trained and are wearing Nikes, that is. Perhaps Mount Soputan should be the next venue for Bali’s Hash House Harriers.

A good volcanic explosion, however, could be a temporary answer to global warming. Take the eruption of Tambora on Sumbawa in 1815. The most powerful eruption ever recorded, the volcanic cloud produced from it lowered global temperatures by as much as 3 degrees Celsius for over a year. Imagine Bali 3 degrees cooler.

Now, if we could just invent a thermometer that would regulate the island’s temperature, releasing cooler air during the hottest months, we’d have the world’s first Super Paradise.

But we must remember that volcanoes are just doing their jobs. They are an inevitable part of life on earth. Like babies have to be burped, the earth must belch. The earth is full of gasses it must release. In addition, the earth’s tectonic plates are constantly shifting. Mount Soputan has trembled over 40 times in a few days. Just like people, the mountain smokes to relieve stress. But still, eventually, it spews out all its contents out of its vomitory.

Then we run for our lives.

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