I’ve a little bit of a thing for interesting facts that have an obvious connection once explained but seem a little weird at first hearing.
For example, the smoking ban means that the drains need cleaning more often. The reason? Much of the smoking now happens outside. More cigarette butts are dropped into the gulleys than were before, and those butts fill the drains faster than you’d think. And, also, apparently, don’t rot down as fast as you’d think either.
A recent episode of QI talked about how the Chinese civilisation developed porcelain and fine china very early on meant that they didn’t need to develop glass to hold hot or dangerous liquids and consequently didn’t discover lenses, which meant their scholars all had to stop reading in their 30s and 40s, which had a repercussion to their entire society. Fascinating.
So I’m intrigued to find out all the various ramifications of the ash cloud from an Iceland volcano that’s stopped all commercial air travel into the UK and most of Northern Europe.
There’s the very obvious. No travel. My brother probably didn’t get to a wedding in Dublin. Thousands of returning package holiday makers are stranded in accommodation that isn’t being needed by thousands of holiday makers who can’t depart. And Whitney Housten, who was in Nottingham yesterday, is having to make her way to Ireland by ferry.
Then there’s some slightly stretchier but still obvious ones: the Channel Islands have run out of blood for medical reasons, so the the RNLI are helping out. Lots of our fruit and veg is air freighted, so we might have few weeks when bananas and oranges are unobtainable or expensive. Apparently, a lot of our cut flowers come from Africa, and the bottom has fallen out of that market. And there’s been a massive saving in CO2 emissions.
There was also the reports of the delay to the Polish commemorations. One air disaster has devastated the top of Polish political society, and another air incident has delayed the state funerals because other world leaders cannot get their to pay their respects.
Once the airlines are allowed to fly again, there will be a huge adjustment to the schedules to try and get things back on track. It was complicated enough to do that after the various strikes, with a need for empty flights to get the planes back in the right places. This BBC story gives an indication of the complexity – I’d be intrigued to be a fly on the wall of offices full of people trying to sort out the mess of getting the crews and planes back in roughly the right place. It will be weeks before all the schedules are working properly again.
But these are all still fairly foreseeable consequences of the three day stoppage of air travel. There must be some really weird ones out there too – so what have you heard?
Oh, one last thing – this ash cloud is all but invisible from the ground and doesn’t appear to stop the sunlight getting through. I bet some people are having a hard time believing there’s actually anything up there at all. Has anyone seen any nice conspiracy theories about why the authorities REALLY want to ground all commercial planes? 🙂
The Emperor’s New Ash Cloud: Once upon a time there was an Empreror who liked his own air space to play games. He and his followers needed privacy for a few days to get an important mission accomplished, but there were too many nosy planes hovering around. He asked his servants to find the best and most (self) important scientists in the kingdom, and was introduced to Slimus and Slick. “We can clear your air space with magic ash clouds – only clever people can see them, stupid people can’t.” They explained a volcano had erupted in an Iceland far to the north, and he could use this as an excuse to ground air traffic for a few days. A map was shown where at this very moment his kingdom was covered in a monstrous black cloud. The Emperor and his servants looked up at the clear blue sky and gulped – they could not see a thing.”They are so high up we can’t see them, not even a haze or speck of ash on any surface – amazing.”
Then an innocent young child looked up and said “oh, but there is no ash cloud !”
Another consequence of the ash cloud: people are finally starting to wake up to the potential of surface travel and are considering their options for holidays by boat, road and rail.
European rail networks enjoyed a 4000% increase in hits to their sites, and even small fry like Loco2travel are enjoying more visitors. A turning point in low carbon travel? I certainly hope so.
Preachin’ to the converted 🙂 http://www.alexfoster.me.uk/2008/06/04/travel-plans/