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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Ashes To Ashes

Another spasm of volcanic activity in Iceland has produced more ash in the atmosphere with the usual effects. Amongst them are disruptions to flights. These affect not only the geographical areas where the ash occurs but the knock on effects around related services.

It does not take much common sense to realise that a cloud of ash and modern jet powered airplanes do not mix and that where they might in the same place then one should give way to the other. It takes even less common sense to work out that this will be the aircraft.

However, the leaders of the major corporations running some airlines, notably Walsh of BA and O’Leary of Ryanair have rushed to the media howling and arm waving to the effect that the authorities have over reacted and that the planes should fly because in their opinion there is not much ash and that is nothing to worry about.

As an exercise in the abandonment of any human or corporate moral responsibility it is a classic of its kind. What they are doing, and this tells us a lot about modern management and the media, is going in for cheap point scoring against the agencies and governments who are stuck with sorting out the problem.

In past centuries it may have been impossible or very difficult to judge exactly what the ash could do and why. It became better in the second half of the 20th Century and is now much more expert. The one thing that is certain is uncertainty and the risks are as high as ever when the ash first goes up and then comes down.

For the latest ash cloud just when Walsh and O’Leary were hitting the headlines scientists in Aberdeen took a look at their car wind screens, did not like what they saw, took some samples and analysed them. They were the familiar remains of a volcanic ash cloud and they were very nasty stuff indeed.

Now information is much more readily available and in a form that the majority of people can understand. Below are three links to help, also you only have to put “volcanic ash” into search, with the variants you use to learn a great deal very quickly.

When the leaders of major corporations act in this fashion with one thing where the information is so readily available and accessible how can we trust them with matters that are more difficult or complicated?

Please make your own list.

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