24 Nov Our Dynamic Planet
I just did a typographical error as I decided the topic, planet became plant. I like the feeling of that as it immediately evokes the idea of growth. Does the planet earth grow? Certainly the organisms on it are born, grow and transform (I no longer use the word die as I now am aware we actually continue). I will actually discuss this a little before I discuss the magnificance of terra firma. Many years ago my ex brother in-law told me about near death situations happening at his hospital. He is an anesthetic technician. The cases he informed me about was of people who were believed to be technically dead, who came back to life. Not only that, they hovered above the table and described the conversation later. Now some will argue that it is chemicals in the brain that produces this effect, although how can one repeat conversations when supposedly passed over. Anyway it triggered questions in myself and some years later I put an advertisement in the newspaper calling for people who had near death or outer body experiences. I will keep this short, I ended up with 8 cases which I felt were legitimate. The point that was made by these people is that they experienced themselves often floating above their body and looking down, for some they realised they could continue or stay. The people I interviewed had these experiences in the 1970’s and had not told anyone. I realised by just interviewing them I was providing a healing function of allowing them to speak without being judged. I am an open person, so I don’t block things that sound strange, I am interested to learn more. Anyway, this was a little bit of research but enough to convince me we go on. Another interesting fact was that people were unafraid of death after the experience. And yes, some reported seeing other beings when they were in a space of being technically dead. So this I found fascinating.
Back to the idea of the planet and the typo plant, so my feeling is the planet grows over time and life forms transit from life to another reality this will be in another blog. So this is a different way of seeing the planet, the physical and metaphysical. The discussion i feel to speak about at this point I will look at the science. The invisible world science does not know, and I often wonder about the depth of what we don’t know. I am sure we barely touch the tip of the iceberg. This blog is to share the magnificence of this planet and how we barely know the world from which we were born into. We use words like environment, earth, nature, gaia, but in truth we have no real concept of this planet. We only view life from our small corner of the planet.
So I will focus this blog on volcanoes but first with a quick overview of the planet. The information provided is from a BBC documentary called ‘The Earth’, is absolutely fascinating. I will only cover a small part of it, but may write more blogs as we have a planet that is truly a miracle. I will add in some of my lateral thoughts as I go, so hopefully I don’t take you on too many tangents. I find it all interesting.
The earth has been in existence for 4.5 billion years, let me make that clearer 4,500,000,000 years ago. Just imagine your life span compared to the planet. I’m 45 years young (no way am I old compared to the earth), and yet we feel we know so much. I am afraid we need many lifetimes to get a handle on the true knowledge of the planet and the universe.
The first signs of life turned up within the first 1 billion years. 71% of the earth is covered in water and if you condensed this down you would have a small bubble out in space that would look like a large moon, it is spread thinly across the planet and it is mostly salt water. The other bodies the earth interacts with are the Sun and Moon, the orbit around the sun once every 366.26 times it rotates about its axis which is equal to 365.24 solar days. The Earth‘s axis tilt is 23.4 degrees away from the perpendicular to the orbital plane. The moon is a satellite and stabilizes the axial tilt and slows the planet’s rotation (interesting). Moreover, the moon affects ocean tides,. The earth is expected to support life for another 500 million years.
Human societies across the world have a range of views about the planet such as a deity, belief in flat earth, the earth as the centre of the universe and the view that the world is an integrated environment that requires stewardship. This is my view and certainly ancient and indigenous people saw the planet as one with themselves, no separation. They also had a cosmology of spirits and all things containing spirits and a relationship with gods or god. So the planet has a few dimensions the terrestrial and the cosmic view.
The BBC documentary covered all the life systems on the planet, the first discussed was the volcanoes. The volcanoes spew into the atmosphere molten lava. The molten lava is the engine at the core of the planet. It is the heat that drives the planet. It creates new land forms continually, if that didn’t happen the water would simply erode all the land away. So the planet has a balance, where land is created in harmony with water. Surtsey island is given as an example of the creatioh of new land. It is a volcanic island off the coast of Iceland and was created by a volcanic eruption. It was viewed as the birth of an island. Yes even islands are born not just human beings.
There are pictures of the molten lava at night using fast motion photography moving pieces of crust across lava lakes and then submerging in a cyclic pattern. The temperature of lava is 700 to 1300 degrees celcius (1300 to 2400 F).
The world is comprised of tectonic plates, in what is termed the lithosphere. These large plates can be identified by cracks in the earth surface, the plate from Iceland to California is 7,000 km in length. The molten rock below the surface splits the land apart. Apparently this plate, the North American plate comprising Iceland moves at 2 cm per year. The commentator asks people to imagine the movement in 200 million years. The geological scales of life on earth are enormous compared to our timeline. Apparently the process is that hot rock rises up spreads sideways in 2 directions, loses heat and cools the rock down. This is what causes continents to move. They showed the example of New Zealand over time and the islands separated and overtime moving together to form the Southern Alps a magnificent spine of mountains that are 5 million years old. Hard to imagine the age of mountains. They have seen so much more than us (even without eyes). Spiritually mountains have been worshipped and certainly you feel the sense of stillness and dwarfed by their magnificence. I remember my former Afghan partner (a Surrealist painter) painting in Salvador Dali style the mountains flying away. He said that the mountains were seen as solid and stable, yet the war he experienced (Afghan-Soviet war), created great fear and he talked of many people taken to the front without their families knowledge. He felt even the mountains may fly away, nothing was certain. In his picture he had tombs on noah’s arc, it was a sobering painting, that nothing is certain. So mountains are not only simply formations but they hold significance to people in a myriad of ways. We can certainly learn from the stillness and majesty of nature by sitting and watching them, you feel instantly peaceful and ancient.
The rivers were discussed as the carriers of the silt to the sea. The Amazon River carries 3 billion tones of the Andes every year. Amazing to contemplate the sentiments on this scale. Water as discussed before erodes land and the inner heat of the planet pushes up the surface to create land. Molten rock was present 4 billion years ago. Apparently Rotorua in New Zealand is the most active volcanic place on the planet. I intend to visit Rotorua when I go there in a few weeks. The springs are a chemical cocktail and a thermal heat recording of 75 degrees Celsius. If has hydrogen sulphide and traces of arsenic. So you wouldn’t want to think it was an oversized bath and go for a swim. You will find out pretty quickly if there is life after death. Yet even in these hostile conditions there are billions of microscopic organisms that live happily in this environment, they are the most primitive organisms. Such is the beauty of adaption over time. Apparently Magma gives off sulpher dioxide and carbon dioxide is food for organisms.
Apparently recently hydro thermal vents were found deep in the ocean (discovered 30 years ago) that support rich diversity. There are high temperatures and chemicals which stimulated the emergence of life. This highlights to me the importance of the stages of earth’s development and the right conditions during each stage for the next step in evolution. I hear the Christians saying no it is creation. Well what if I was to say it is both. We have here an intelligent design that has clear processes and there is clear evidence of evolution. I do smile when I hear the scientists and religious people going head to head, there is no reason why there needs to be an argument. Evolution was proven, there may be question marks around spirituality as it is an unseen reality and difficult to prove. Which is fine. Love is the answer in both cases and enjoyment of the diversity of ideas. Anyway back to the miracle of this world.
Did you know that in the beginning of life on earth the sun was 30% cooler. I find that fascinating. Had volcanoes not erupted carbon dioxide into the atmosphere the planet would have frozen. There is certainly evidence of a snowball earth (completely frozen). In the beginning the volcanic activity was extensive. The carbon dioxide (CO2) traps heat in the atmosphere, warming the planet, it enabled early life to survive. If you compared CO2 levels with Venus, it is 400 times that of the earth, interesting huh. Now for the climate skeptics who may say it is natural. This was in the formulation of the planet and it was not a continuous flow of eruptions to the present day, it had its stage to assist in balancing the planet and readying it for more complex life forms.
Another interesting fact was stomatolites ruled the planet for 2 billion years. They are created by bacteria. These lava looking rock formations are found mostly in Shark Bay in Western Australia (hmm looks like Australia is pretty old). They are amazing, they are the most ancient rocks on the planet (must go there). Anyway, they occurred widely during the Precambrian period. They comprise single celled blue green bacteria. These bacteria’s photosynthesise turning carbon dioxide into oxygen and were the primary source of oxygen which provided the conditions for complex organisms to evolve. They are not that exciting to look at but they are responsible for us living today. We are linked. Perhaps that is the missing link hey.
According to scientists state that 700 million years ago there is evidence that ice sheets were at the equator, they determine this by finding what they call drop stones which they say were transported by ice and as it began to melt at the equator dropped and formed part of other rock formations. I found that fascinating. You can trace the movement of rocks around the world. Who would have thought that ice transports rocks. But there you go. Clever planet. The scientists talk about an interesting eruption in 2004 where a volcanic eruption was witnessed exploding up through an Iceland ice sheet. It is surmised that this is how snow ball earth was melted.
So pulling this together somewhat the volcanoes stabilized or regulated the temperature of the planet, controlling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The stomatolites provided the oxygen for life. These two important developments enabled a livable environment. But wait there is more…
In the oceans did you know the dominant form of oxygen, approximately 50% comes from tiny little planktons. They are invisible to the naked eye but from space scientists can see green plumes. Like fields of grass. The plankton photosynethesise, takes in carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen so you and I can breath. These little creatures you will never see but your survival is dependent on theirs. Unfortunately the gaping hole in the ozone layer that floats across Australia, South America and Antarctica allows ultra violet radiation and other dangerous rays to hit the earth, this kills plankton. The hole is caused by CFCs or chloro fluorocarbons and hydro fluorocarbons also know as Freon. The most common is called dichlorodifluoromethane which are commonly used in refrigerant and aerosol spray propellant. There is a process to phase them out but there is a significant lag time. Even after you stop they are still floating up there. So these man made chemicals have punched a hole in the very thin ozone layer. This layer absorbs 97-99% of the sun’s high frequency ultraviolet radiation. So if the global warming doesn’t sort us out the ozone layer will.
Now back to our fascinating friends the plankton, did you know when they die their shells sink down onto the sea floor and they transform into rock. They naturally sequest carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it becomes trapped in rock. How clever is that. Human’s are attempting to mirror this natural phenomenon by sequestration methods using subsurface saline aquifers, reservoirs, ocean water, aging oil fields, or other carbon sinks. I have to say there are people that don’t think human’s have affected nature, if that was so why are we doing this artificially. I think there is a little concern out there.
So what is interesting in these processes is getting the right amount of CO2 in the environment. How do we know when we find the right balance. It is highly complex and nature had a very clever system that automatically regulated CO2. The subduction volcanoes are fascinating and the most powerful. An example is on May 18 1980 Mount Helens in the United States erupted and 3 billion cubic metres of molten lava slide down the mountain. Scientists noticed a cone rock growing in the crater of the volcanoe, they knew an eruption was imminent. These volcanoes release the gas that is crucial as a thermastat, allowing earth’s inner heat to escape.
So I might wind up at this point. The earth is not just a ball spinning in space. We live in a universe whereby planets orbit the sun and it is all clockwork. However, the planet is very much alive and reacting to changes on the surface. It is an intelligent system with built in mechanisms for adaption and this is the heart of sustainability of all life. The system is flexible, adaptable and sustainable naturally. It is not just fixed classical mechanics operating on auto pilot but a living aware organism just as intricate and perfect as the human body. The concept of Gaia is a way of visualizing the planet as alive rather than just a rock to be exploited for minerals and resources. Gaia in ancient greek is the primordial deity.
It is interesting looking at the Wiki definition of Gaia, that of mother earth. The feminine is clearly seen as nurturing life. The earth herself is in need of nurturing perhaps it is our turn to take responsibility. So let me finish, as it is getting late, with the Wiki overview.
The idea that the fertile earth itself is female, nurturing mankind, was not limited to the Greco-Roman world. These traditions themselves were greatly influenced by earlier cultures in the ancient Middle East.In Sumerian mythology Ki is the earth goddess.In Akkadian orthograrhy she has the syllabic values gi,ge,qi,qe (for toponyms).Some scholars identify her with Ninhursag (lady of the mountains),the earth and fertility Mother Goddess,who had the surnames Nintu (lady of birth), Mamma and Aruru. The relevant Egyptian earth and fertility god Geb was male and he was considered as father of all snakes. The title “The mother of life” was later given to the Akkadian Goddess Kubau, and hence to Hurrian Hepa, emerging as Hebrew Eve (Heva) and Phygian Kubala (Cybele). In Norse mythology the earth is personified as Jörð, Hlöðyn, and Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn. In Germanic paganism, the Earth Goddess is referred to as Nertha. The Irish Celts worshipped Danu, whilst the Welsh Celts worshipped Dôn. Hints of their names occur throughout Europe, such as the Don river, the Danube River, the Dnestr and Dnepr, suggest that they stemmed from an ancient Proto-Indo-European goddess. In Lithuanian mythology Gaia – Žeme is daughter of Sun and Moon. Also she is wife of Dangus (Varuna). In Pacific cultures, the Earth Mother was known under as many names and with as many attributes as cultures who revered her for example Maori whose creation myth included Papatuanuku, partner to Ranginui – the Sky Father. In South America in the Andes a cult of the Pachamama still survives (in regions of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile). The name comes from Pacha (Quechua for change, epoch) and Mama (mother). While ancient Mexican cultures referred to Mother Earth as Tonantzin Tlalli that means “Revered Mother Earth”.
Send some love to mother earth tonight, no-one will notice, but the earth will. We are all energy, nothing goes unnoticed.
Have a beautiful night and remember you are one with the planet, you are not separate as you believe. We just lost our connection to the life that supports all life.