Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sinkholes - and how to avoid them

Circular failure is a predictable risk with fringing reefs  
Don't believe everything the media tell you . Years and centuries after we tell them something   ( sometimes islands subside rather than seas rise) , they like to have their own theories to support their own prejudices . Several years ago I posted fellow geologist Charles Darwin's comments about tropical reef edges when the world was panicking quite wrongly about evidence of sea level rise in the Pacific islands.Darwin who studied subjects well  would not have supported "sea level rise"in their examples because he saw directly with extensive soundings why there was subsidence after properly researching ocean depths and structure .( something the noisemakers haven't mentioned to date )
Now we have the embarrassing ducking and weaving over the normal risk of subsidence . These self built ramparts can eventually break off as they form in shallow sea water with a fresh water component and tidal action . If only the present commentators /wannabes got in a boat like Darwin did when he commented on this over one hundred years ago they would see what we remote sensors can see from the air - without going there . Deep blue water is a clue , the circular edge demonstrates a low factor of safety in slope instability so the structural failure with these ledges is no mystery - a clearly predictable risk and reality.Carbonate chemistry isn't rocket science but clearly our media , after years of denial, can't see that they have dug their own hole to slink into . 

Look up the experts if you dare !
 Kurabati . Ignore the quick fixers and the worry warriors if you want to back conservation and risk management that works.

The slow and often dumb response to the sinkhole on the edge of Fraser Island ( the news this week) highlights  a serious problem with the education of  a whole range of people about basic earth processes .

The questions  were fair enough ( "how does it happen";" can we predict where ") but the answers and the ongoing worry train effect is totally unjustified .Circular shape and dark blue tells us all we need to know .

Instead of using the opportunity to educate the public about real risks , most "expert" commentators in geotech used the opportunity to spruke confused subscience about "monitoring and measuring" .   They are saying "I don't know" without saying so . .
The fact that few people realised this reactive process to problem solving was not good , highlights how deep the disease is in public discourse - explains why its not just red tape but long winded risk questions with few answers that stop development and prevent resolution in government process.
It explains why we end up with piles of reports on all sorts of subjects ( engineering and remote sensing , geochemistry, bioprocess  and groundwater chemistry) but no decisions ,

It was not always so and should not still be so .

The dissolution and restoration  of carbonate salts is no news to chemists even if the 3D on site and with time takes time and landscape process expertise .What happened is an evident and understandable risk --this monitoring talk is just the all too typical  distraction and excuse  . Circular and dark blue tells us all we need to know .

While this duck shoving is not new and the"monitoring and measuring"ok in some areas  the excuse is no longer recognised as such  , The public ownership of environmental issues means we get  politically correct filters applied to news.   Subsidence  has not been an acceptable word to use when sea levels are supposed to be rising.

My biggest  problem with all the talk is not the subject . I guess,  like groundwater and gold we can't see whats down there , so we feel vulnerable .  

My concern , despite this,  is the waste of time ; Why ,when there are real big risks ( soil erosion , water and ground water pollution) and they are not well addressed,  do people talk so long about  on such a low risk event -- likelihood and location of real risk can be relatively easily described and prescribed ( limestone , stream edges, unconsolidated materials , flood times  and construction sites )

The reality too is that by taking an industry focus, we adopt the reactionary growth model that is never satisfied . We grow a  maladaptive disaster growth industry  missing the opportunity to have a more efficient preventative focus;something  that has made our culture so competitive and efficient.

I feel honored that I am not the first scientist to be ignored when it matters .That it should be someone as thorough  as Charles Darwin in his first monograph is especially so . http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=F271&viewtype=text

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