(This post was written by Nation intern Melanie Breault, who is also contributing Daybook items and tweets all summer) How is the world going to end? This is a harrowing question that seems to be coming up more and more in casual conversations, especially after movies like 2012, The Road and Inception (to be released this Friday)—and now, the scary BP oil leak in the gulf.
Helium’s article by Terrence Aym suggests that “251 million years ago a mammoth undersea methane bubble caused massive explosions, poisoned the atmosphere and destroyed more than 96 percent of all life on Earth.” Aym claims that another methane bubble formed 55 million years later. Several scientists say there are warning signs in the gulf of this happening for a third time.
Time magazine’s NewsFeed picked up the story and went into panic mode saying, “This is news that goes beyond ‘spooky scary’ into ‘start-reevaluating-your-life scary.’” But NewsFeed then presented a counter argument. They cited an interview with Gary Byerly, a geoloist at Louisiana State University who says, “The idea that there could be a catastrophic cave in, or a methane gas explosion, that’s not a reasonable worry.… The rock formations on top of this oil deposit have enough strength that nothing like that is going to happen.”
While we all relax a bit, who is the public supposed to believe?
Remember Climategate? Leaked e-mails between scientists cast public doubt on the integrity of the global warming argument. A few months before the conference and the emails, 84 percent of scientists said the Earth was getting warmer because of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels, while only 49 percent of the public agreed. Skeptics of global warming had a field day, or more appropriately, a bunch of snow days this winter as the inches started to build and the temperatures continued to drop. But this season, as Juliet Eilperin cites for the Washington Post’s Post Carbon, “Some environmental activists might be tempted to point to this summer’s heat waves to bolster their case.”
Maybe the tone will change as the public pants in front of their fans.