“Something Called Volcano Monitoring”: Bobby Jindal Needs a Geology Lesson
I turned on Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s
campaign speech pre-campaign campaign insinuation pre-campaign dogwhistle fundraiser rebuttal to Obama’s speech while cooking my pancakes this evening.
I have two questions.
- Do Republicans (or moderates who don’t have a kneejerk anti-Republican reflex) also feel like he’s talking to the nation as though we were all kindergarteners? I was flabbergasted, but I don’t know how to properly account for my rather strong political biases here.
- DID HE SERIOUSLY JUST SAY THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT BE MONITORING VOLCANOES??!?!!!????@#$@!
Ignoring for the sake of argument the value of the basic science that always results from the data collected during routine monitoring – ignoring the general function of increased spending as an economic stimulus to the nation’s earth scientists, instrument manufacturers, etc., – even ignoring all that, volcano monitoring is still a very sensible investment in national security. A $1.5 million investment in monitoring at Pinatubo (near a U.S. air force base) earned a greater than 300-fold return when the volcano erupted explosively in 1991: hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property (mostly airplanes) was saved, as were thousands of lives. That 30,000% figure comes before you attempt to put a value on human life.
Sure, not all investments will have such a payoff – or at least, we really hope that not all of the volcanoes we monitor will erupt explosively and damagingly on us. But even smaller puffs pose a considerable risk. For example, volcano monitoring is vital to aviation safety (you can think of an ash cloud as a swarm of tiny shards of glass out to ruin any jet engines it finds).
In other words: If the USGS didn’t monitor volcanoes, the Defense Department would have to. And we all know that would cost eleventy-squillion times more than the current shoestring budget.