During the Republican response to President Obama's recent address to Congress, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal mocked the $140 million to be spent on "volcano monitoring" as "wasteful spending":
While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a "magnetic levitation" line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called "volcano monitoring." Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.
"Larded... wasteful spending," eh? Considering that five states (California, Oregon, and Washington with the Cascades, Alaska, and Hawaii) and two territories (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) are home to quite a few active volcanoes, this is hardly frivolous research.
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Not only do active volcanoes have the potential for destruction like we've seen in 1980 at Mt. St. Helens in southern Washington (not too far from Seattle and Portland, Oregon), but they also cause earthquakes and their plumes are a serious safety hazard to tens of thousands of airliners flying by. Several Alaskan volcanoes are along the route used by aircraft flying from North America to East Asia.
Some fifty-seven people died as a result of the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens. The damage in today's money would be close to $3 billion. Sure, that's no Hurricane Katrina, but it is something that could happen again and close monitoring will help save lives and perhaps a substantial amount of property.
In other words, monitoring these things is molto importante.
[left: Eruption of Mount St. Helens in May 1980. Knowing ahead of time when this kind of thing is about to happen can be rather useful if you're in the business of saving your ass. In that way, they're a lot like other natural disasters. Like, say, category-5 hurricanes that hit populated areas that are partly below sea level. Just sayin'.]
Frankly, I am so sick of politicians with little scientific acumen mocking the efforts of people who do understand the chemistry, physics, biology, and math of the problems we face. This is just all kinds of stupid. If Bobby Jindal is the best and brightest the Republicans have to offer, the Grand Old Party is in for a heap of trouble.
You'd think that the governor of the state where the worst natural disaster in recent memory, costing well over $80 billion dollars and the loss of well over 1800 lives, would be a little more understanding of the need to monitor Mother Nature in order to prepare for future natural disasters. $140 million is a small amount to pay for something that the Feds should be working on anyway.
Is Bobby Jindal yet another example of the provincial politician (and yes, there are Democrats among them as well) who fail to see that if something's not a problem in their own backyard it could still be a serious problem elsewhere?
Heck of a job, Bobby. Heck of a job.
By the way, we have volcanoes here in Hawaii. There's a whole national park dedicated to them, in fact. Most people don't know this, but there's a really cool national monument in upstate California, Lava Beds National Monument, where one can go spelunking through lava tubes. It's also the site of the historic Modoc Wars and some cool prehistoric petroglyphs.
South Korea's southernmost province, the island of Cheju-do, is also volcanic in origin. The whole island is Mt. Hallasan. It's got some way long lava tubes (Manjanggul, 만장굴), as well, but you can't explore them independently. Maybe they're afraid of Modoc attacks.
So, to summarize:
- Volcano monitoring very important.
- Bobby Jindal kinda doesn't know what he's talking about.
- Politicians should go back to school and learn science.
- Hawaii, California, and Cheju-do have some way cool volcano-related sites.
[above: Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal addresses townhall meeting in Vancouver, Washington. Jindal told one angry attendee: "I understand that you don't want to live in fear of catastrophic geological shifts in the Earth's crust. But if it's really that important to you, you'd do something about it yourself instead of demanding a handout from Uncle Sam." Well, not in so many words.]