Every mother has her own way of dealing with kids. Nature is no different. For thousands of years, we have been incorrigible, despite her warnings and endless retributions. Like a spoiled, psychopath brat, we gradually poisoned our mother till she was compelled to hit back in self-defense. Humans have always taken nature for granted and now we are paying the price for it. Today, it feels like she is angry and is bent on to avenge her sufferings. And we are walking the green mile ready to be thrashed, squished, burnt, drowned, and hit by asteroids. All at once.
In an ideal scenario, the odds of us getting killed by a natural calamity equals our chances of survival. Think of us as Schrodinger’s cats. We are both alive and dead at the same time on this planet. Nature is all-powerful and we, with all our nuclear bombs, sophisticated weapons and biological warfare, are still at the mercy of mother Earth. Just like a puny, angry kid who hurls plastic Lego pieces and fierce-looking action figures to cause mass destruction, but eventually surrenders to his mom’s fiery temper. Mothers always have the upper hand, don’t they?
I personally think our survival is no coincidence. If nature wished, she could have wiped us out from her ass and chucked us into the bin, in an instant. Remember the ice age? Or the Hepner floods? The climate change that uprooted the entire Mayan civilization? The brutal droughts that changed the face of once green Egyptian landscape and turned it into a mournful canvas of desert, sandstorms, and famine? It just took a large asteroid – the Chicxulub impactor – to annihilate the entire progeny of dinosaurs. Well, I believe, it was a stupid suicide attempt. But never mind, mother Earth survived.
However, we might not be as lucky. COVID-19 has already mowed us over, locking us inside our porous homes and making us tremble in uncertainty. With the train of calamities coming our way in 2020, it makes us ponder what surprises does our planet hold for us? Is it really the end? Or will we be lucky enough to survive the apocalypse once again? Coincidence or consequence – the nature’s call for vengeance is making us shit in our pants, for sure.
A Ground Shaking Revelation
Delhi had shuddered almost 16 times in the past 2 months, thanks to the recent rise in seismic activity. Fortunately, they were all minor, with a magnitude of less than 5 each, and didn’t cause any catastrophe. Millions of years ago, the Indian tectonic plate fell in love with the Eurasian plate. The force of infatuation was so huge that the crust folded upwards around the collision area; giving birth to the mighty Himalayas, home to the world’s tallest mountains. The passion hasn’t mellowed even today, and the plates don’t shy away from sharing a peck or two, every now and then.
The British Geological Survey suggests that the recent devastating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and China might suggest an increase in seismic activity. However, a quick look at earthquake statistics, over the last 20 years, shows that the planet experiences around 15 earthquakes – magnitude 7 or greater – every year and there is hardly any variation in the long term average. So why does it seem that mother Earth is shaking a leg more often? Seismologists at BGS agree that the surge in population, especially in earthquake-prone areas, result in more devastation and visible impact even if the number of tremors remains the same.
Some geologists, however, interpret the smaller tremors as a potential harbinger of a bigger quake. Professor P. K. Khan at the faculty of applied geophysics, IIT Dhanbad, cited “The entire region experienced 64 tremors with magnitudes ranging between 4.0 and 4.9 and eight with magnitudes 5.0 and above over the last two years, which shows an increase in the accumulation of strain energy in the region, particularly near Delhi and Kangra.”
Dr. Kalachand Sain, Chief of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, concurs “We cannot predict time, place or exact scale, but do believe that there is a consistent seismic activity going around in the NCR region and can trigger in a major earthquake in Delhi.”
The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind
The reckless gush of strong winds conjuring over the Indian ocean at short intervals reminds me of Bob Dylan’s 1963 classic. Cyclonic storms across the world have become more intense over the past four decades. In 2020 alone, we have been thrashed by 41 tropical cyclones till now. While 25 of them deserved a name – because they attained maximum sustained winds of 35 knots (40 mph) – the others just breezed away nonchalantly. The strongest storm of the year so far is Cyclone Harold in the South Pacific Ocean whereas the deadliest and costliest storm has been Cyclone Amphan in the North Indian Ocean, causing almost 128 fatalities in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
The reason is fairly simple. Global warming. As climate change warms up sea surfaces, the heat fuels the genesis of tropical cyclones, raising the limit for potential wind speed and hence, potential damage. Our incessant imbecile activities have turned mother Earth into a hotheaded brute. So it shouldn’t come as a shock if she whacks us with Amphans, Fanis and Nisargas – winds blowing at 115 miles per hour and torrential downpour – every now and then. Self-defense, right?
According to a recent study by Carbon Brief, the chances of a major tropical cyclone occurring in the Southern Indian Ocean have increased by 18% over the decade. Needless to say, if we have to save ourselves from the ‘eye’, we need to keep an eye on our carbon footprint.
High On A-Steroid
Space rocks! I mean, looking at the night sky is exquisite of course, but here I am talking about the erratic remnants of our solar system – the asteroids. The forsaken boulders that were cast away by the big planets like stepbrothers and were left to dangle in a cosmic refugee camp between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Even after millions of years, these rocks haven’t turned cold like their exoplanet siblings – the icy bodies dwelling in the far reaches of the solar system. They still crave family love and hence, pay visits according to their whims and fancies.
In one of the episodes of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about how an asteroid impact triggered the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, leaving small mammals as the dominant species on Earth. I think it was called ‘The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth’ where Tyson talks about the possibility of Earth’s landmasses changing in the future and the impact it could have on our planet.
There has been quite a pandemonium recently due to the sudden insurgence of asteroids. The media was covered with scary news of colossal asteroids shooting towards Earth. The headlines definitely hit us hard, but luckily, the asteroids didn’t. 2002 NN4, the stadium-sized asteroid, which created quite a stir, flew past our planet at a distance of roughly 5.2 million kilometres or 15 times the Earth-Moon distance. There was essentially zero risks of impact. Then, there was the 2020K Klan. Five 100-feet-above asteroids racing towards Earth on one single day! Was that coincidence? Or nature was just pelting stones at us as a sign of revolt? Luckily again, we were able to survive the massive cosmic mutiny that happened on June 3.
In case you’re wondering we might not be as lucky next time, and get hit by one of these drifting space boulders, causing the end of a civilisation or a decade-long winter, don’t you worry. According to NASA, the probability of an asteroid large enough to annihilate a city striking Earth is 0.1% every year. If one of these does hit Earth, there is a 70% chance it will hit the ocean and a 25% chance it will land over a relatively unpopulated area. The odds of a 5-10 kilometres wide asteroid, like the one that made the dinosaurs go extinct, hitting Earth is almost negligible at 0.000001%.
Secondly, the solar system is gradually cooling down. As the universe expands, astronomical bodies move farther apart reducing the chances of collision between them.
Nevertheless, it is critical that we keep an eye on the skies and stay prepared to avoid any astronomical calamity. And make sure no random forsaken flying space block catches us off-guard ever. Like 2019 OK, the football field-sized asteroid that came within 65000 km of Earth and was spotted just a day before it flew past us.
Coincidence Or Consequence?
Einstein once said ‘God doesn’t play dice with the universe’. Everything that happens follows a precisely designed mathematical algorithm that leaves no room for coincidence. Our every action adds weight until the needle of patience hits the threshold. But then, not everything is a consequence. Some are just part of the everyday cosmic routine. We need to align ourselves in perfect harmony with nature, understand her language. Nature keeps sending us signals and warnings to help prepare us better against possible calamities. We just don’t get the gravity of the situation. Just like a puny, angry kid.
Cover Image Source: National Geographic