Human-Induced Earthquakes and Cooking the Planet: We’re Living the Next Hollywood Sci-Fi Blockbuster

alien-invasion"Environmentalism" as a cause in America has its roots in the wilderness, the "otherness" a person can discover when he or she is separated from their own kind and put among crowds of the planet's non-human inhabitants.  Walden Pond. National Parks. These were all meant to be meditative retreats from "civilization," from which you could escape. Environmentalism was a revelatory and individualistic experience.

Then came the understanding of environmentalism as a way to affect collective public health. Air pollution we breathe into our bodies causes lung cancer and asthma. Swallowing water with toxins in it when you're pregnant can cause birth defects. Eating foods with pesticides in them can affect a child's hormones. Still, the impacts were mostly seen person by person, and they depended on lots of variables – genetics, location, exposure. Not in my backyard.

Now however we're in a whole new age of cause and effect. The scale is planetary. The sky we live under as well as the ground we walk on.

Imagine Hollywood makes a movie about alien invaders who want to reshape the Earth for their own purpose, say like "Battleship." They begin pumping in massive quantities of CO2 and methane, driving up the temperature way beyond anything in recent history and setting-off all kinds of chain reactions among species and weather conditions. They begin extracting minerals by poking deep holes in the earth and then setting off large explosions, the waste of which causes not-insignificant earthquake activity when they pump it back into the ground under tremendous pressure. Their huge spaceships sometimes leak radioactivity, and if they just happen to be sitting beside oceans that can be used as industrial-size septic tanks, all the better.

That's what it feels like now, in 2014.

In case you missed it, the United States Geologic Service issued its very first "Earthquake warning" for Oklahoma:

"A new study found that earthquakes in Oklahoma rose by 50 per cent over the last seven months, leading researchers to warn that the risk of a damaging earthquake measuring a magnitude of more than 5.5 has increased significantly in the state. Agencies reported 183 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher from October until April 14th, compared with an average of only two per year from 1978 to 2008."

Usually reserved for places like California or Alaska to warn residents of the risk of damaging aftershocks, this is the first time the USGS has issued an earthquake warning for a state east of the Rockies. In the Sooner State, the aftershocks are thought to be caused by fracking waste injection wells. A Cornell University study released this week showed a link between waste wells and earthquakes up to 50 kilometers away.

"A new study of the Jones earthquake swarm, occurring near Oklahoma City since 2008, demonstrates that a small cluster of high-volume injection wells triggered earthquakes tens of kilometers away. Both increasing pore pressure and the number of earthquakes were observed migrating away from the injection wells.

"The existing criteria for an induced earthquake do not allow earthquakes associated with the well activity to occur this far away from the wellbore," said Katie Keranen, assistant professor of geophysics at Cornell University, who led the study of the Jones earthquake swarm. "Our results, using seismology and hydrogeology, show a strong link between a small number of wells and earthquakes migrating up to 50 kilometers away" said Keranen. "

Moreover, we're just beginning to understand the threat to infrastructure from human-induced earthquakes…

"Last week scientists attending the Seismological Society of America annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska called for more research into the relationship between fracking wastewater disposal and earthquake activity.

Gail Atkinson, an earth sciences professor at the University of Western Ontario, presented research at the conference highlighting the “significant and as-yet-unquantified risk” to the integrity of critical infrastructure, such as major dams and nuclear power plants posed by induced seismicity.

Part of the problem is that fault lines in the areas most affected by fracking operations are often poorly and incompletely mapped. Texas, Ohio, Colorado and Oklahoma, which have in recent years experienced unprecedented seismic activity, have never been made a priority like California and other states where quakes have long been a threat."

SMU and USGS scientists looking into the Azle earthquake swarm were also at this same Alaska conference presenting their paper showing the vast majority of recent earthquakes near that city were centered between two injection wells, including a large XTO one. Expect to see some follow-up as reporters and citizens take their first look.  And while we really do expect an alien invasion to occur before the State of Texas voluntarily does anything to stop the problem in Azle, there's a House Energy Committee, Seismic Activity Sub-Committee hearing next Monday May 12th, where only invited testimony will be heard. Sharon has the details for folks that want to make another trip to Austin.

Meanwhile, April saw new highs in atmospheric poisoning.… 

The end of April has arrived, and with it, the record for the first month in human history with an average carbon dioxide level in Earth’s atmosphere above 400 parts per million has been set.

With a little more than 24 hours left in the month, the average for April can't slip below 400 ppm. “Every day in April has been over 400 ppm,” said Pieter Tans, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are monitored from a site atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, where they have been measured continuously since 1958. The long record has charted the steep rise of the greenhouse gas — the most prevalent in Earth’s atmosphere — as a result of human emissions.

The first measurement in excess of 400 ppm was made on May 9, 2013. This year, the level rose above that mark a full two months earlier, and has remained above 400 ppm steadily since the beginning of April.

And lest you think you'll be long gone before the effects of this change affect you and yours, yesterday's new National Climate Assessment report wants you to know that,

"The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.

Such sweeping changes have been caused by an average warming of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over most land areas of the country in the past century, the scientists found. If greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane continue to escalate at a rapid pace, they said, the warming could conceivably exceed 10 degrees by the end of this century.

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the scientists declared in a major new report assessing the situation in the United States."

Conscience-ridden scientists making dire warnings about the threat. A government too slow or self-interested to act to thwart the threat. We know this movie. From the POV of the moving camera, we see the same forces of darkness making things go boom underneath us are also filling up our thin layer of atmosphere with gunk. This is no longer something we can escape from, nor is it a matter of local public health. After years of hearing that the sky is falling, now it really is. Only instead of aliens causing it, it's us treating the planet as if we were.

In such a Hollywood Blockbuster, the heroes would be the scrappy, common-sense fueled citizenry who had managed to outrun and outsmart the aliens in various small and large ways while governments fumbled and greedy privateers made deals with the newcomers. With some imagination, a rag tag group of locals fighting a single alien ship out in the boondocks would finally find an out-of-the-box way to disrupt, confuse, and eventually defeat the enemy. As the credits begin to roll, you can see word of this grassroots strategy spread across the globe and its effectiveness showing up in Paris, Moscow, Nairobi, Mexico City, and Hong Kong.

This is that movie. We're in it. Are you a member of the scrappy resistance or an anonymous uncredited crowd extra? Quick, the tide's coming in.….

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