Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Holidays!

The “Rights” of the Holiday Season
Aside from the necessity of conforming to the institutions arranged throughout Time by charismatic (and Epiphanatic) Leaders, what does the Earth Scientist have to offer, to determine the Truth of Man’s relation to his world- at the termination of another Solar Year? Nowadays, science has determined that Man is just a part of the World- not the master of it. He does seem to have the ability to disrupt the orderly progression of the Earth’s Evolution, but does he have the Wisdom and Knowledge to allow the tremendous expansion of Population and the Use of the Earth’s Crust to “jive’? Man does have the numbers and the ability to reason and organize the population to exploit the Crust of the Earth for his selfish benefit, but does he have the foresight to exercise restraint in his Exploitation?
When as a graduate student at Texas A&M, I remember the professor asking the class to concentrate on how to conserve oil and gas resources. The accentuation was on ways to produce the resources without waste- not bypassing large amounts of oil in the haste to make use of it. This would involve ways to use secondary recovery to bring more oil to the surface economically, but more importantly not to “waste” it by leaving pockets of oil in the earth. At that tender age of 29, I inquired whether it was not more wasteful to burn the oil (as auto engine gasoline) - rather than to use it for petrochemicals. That it would be less wasteful to leave the energy and chemicals in the earth, than to burn them- where they are gone forever, leaving ash and waste products instead. In those days, Saudi Arabia was flaring off all of the gas produced with the oil, since it was too much trouble to fiddle with the less profitable gas cap. And there was actually too much production of oil possible- so that the Railroad Commission of Texas restricted production to 10 days or so monthly. Of course, the world population has doubled since the 50’s, and everyone is entitled to his own auto- if he can muster the wealth to invest in and maintain it.
Although there has been a sea change in the attitudes towards our interaction with the Earth and its Resources- what with the population becoming excessive- nevertheless, all still want their personal autos and the garaging and land space to accommodate all of this. People in the cities are arrayed against those in open spaces of the world, in idealizing a view of the earth (its cosmetic and natural appearance) rather than the economical use of it.
How then can people working in the various Earth Sciences accommodate their source of income via employers (which is to exploit the Earth and its resources), with the desire of the thinkers to allow the Earth to proceed on its natural course- where most processes occur with gradual and small changes, instead of at large rates as determined by the desire for immediate returns on investment? Haven’t there always been Jeremiahs who prophesy doom as the results of man’s material activities?
How about myself, who has spent most of his professional career in developing techniques which are faster, less expensive, and novel to find and develop natural resources such as fluids in the earth? Working almost alone, I found techniques which would locate subsurface water in the desert, and sense gas from chemical changes according to pressure and chemical change in cuttings measurements from wellbores. Wasn’t the end result of all this just to encourage more people to turn to the desert or to waste areas where there were not sufficient resources previously?

A Log may be made in a shallow well, from Surface Cuttings thrown out on the Ground
“Man is known by his Rubbish Pile” is one assessment fondly made by Archeologists, where middens yield knowledge of what Man did in the past. Is this to be the legacy of our generation- packrats leaving artifacts saved by virtue of coating their possessions with urine, for the delight of the archeologists? What we exhibited were analyze-able piles of trash, including that in the atmosphere and in our waters?
Evidently, Life has always adjusted its environment to accommodate its desired goals- to propagate itself and to decrease the Entropy of the Universe. The great engineer- the Beaver- has long ago upstaged Man in re-arranging his streams to make lakes which reduce erosion, save resources, and allow for his progeny and other life forms to take advantage of his activities.
Now we find hints that early Life has done the same- rearranged its environment, for the benefit of its successors. As deep as we drill, we find that there is Life, in the form of bacteria which eat on the crust. Since the Proterozoic, this has reduced the crust to that of a habitat, gradually changing the mainly basalts of the early days to that of granite (after re-melting) which is re-cycled again and again through subduction to increase in mass with time (Life takes out what it desires and leaves increasing silicates as the heavy minerals and ions are concentrated in fine sediments). It appears that the crust has become thicker with time since the 3 billion ybp eon.
Regardless of Man’s desire to increase his material possessions, there is a great need to understand the Earth - which is Man’s only domain so far. Man’s leaders can choose to accommodate both of these pursuits, by encouraging an interaction with the Earth just sufficiently to meet the material needs (minimizing his “wants”, while accentuating interest in earth processes). Evidently some primitive cultures did similarly, developing astronomy or other observations of natural events which stimulated the population to develop understanding- rather than just for the accumulation of excessive material wealth.

Christmas as a Time of Reflection

“It’s Unnatural”, the Observer stated- “this scurrying about to transfer the results of my Labor to Purchase material goods for Satisfaction of my Emotions”

All have felt it- the feeling of Charity and Communion, which is suddenly thrust upon the crowd during the end of the year season. People are racing to and fro to accumulate presents for their companions (not necessarily their “loved ones”). And it is not really an expression of trade of gifts for expectations of return. I believe that they genuinely have compassion and a desire to instill good will. The normally selfish person contributes “something for the Pot”. This charitable effort is laudable, but don’t expect it to continue post-Christmas, since selfishness and rationality will again prevail, once the period of goodwill has expired.

Capture the Time Now, while our Emotions allow
Us to embrace our better selves temporarily;
Yield to the Group, while rejecting the coop
Of our rational and advantaged side, summarily.

Question for the day- rationality to allay-
Is whether this decile is Characteristic?
Are we to believe, that there’s no reprieve
For the other nine-tenths- opportunistic?

Even the Muse’s Rhyme, for most of the Time
Cannot easily be brought to the Fore;
Hence we’re stuck with the Fact that the majority Act
Hinges on the dominant Desire at our Core.

Merchants are Adroit, and quick to Exploit
This Coming-out- of-ourselves almost annually.
So manage yourself, using some of your Stealth
For your Spirit to channel positives most Manually.

Harold L. Overton