14 June 2008

Diatoms

Scientists believe that this planet has been in existence for 4.6 billion years. In only half of that time has there been a belt of oxygenated air that could sustain life. It seems that people have only been around for the last million years so if you took a twelve inch ruler and used it as a scale to represent the Earth's history, human life would only figure in the last measly millimetre.

Over the last few days, news services have been well-focussed on rising oil prices, shortages, truckers' strikes etc.. It set me thinking - what is oil anyway? This natural product without which much of the life that we know would be so very different

Now I am not a scientist but my researches suggest that there are many differing opinions about how oil ever came about in the first place and also about how far back on the Earth's massive timescale it was first formed. A majority of modern scientific observers cite the "diatom" as the basis of all oil formation. Think of ancient tropical seas and lakes. Under the hot sun a living soup forms - plankton and other basic life forms such as the diatom. This soup falls to the seabed and it falls again and again over millions of years. Sediments fall and they give a home to the oily broth of those billions of dead single-cell diatoms. Rocks form and the oil is trapped awaiting human discovery though some of it seeps to the surface. Estimations of how old the Earth's oil is vary betwen ten million and five hundred million years. Quite a lot of room for error!

I have started to try to picture this ancient natural process when I use electricity. Upn deciding to switch a light off, don't think of the money you'll be saving, think instead of those pre-human seas and lakes with the sun beating down, long before dinosaurs, long before woodlice and certainly way long before the first primitive men said "Ug!" and beat their chests. Having oil and the petroleum and plastic products it has spawned is an amazing bounty for which we should all be incredibly grateful. Instead - what do we do? We squander this gift like children with Christmas selection boxes. Guzzling it down with no thought for tomorrow.

3 comments:

  1. Absolutely! Great Post YP!

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  2. As long as there's enough of th stuff left in the North sea to keep me in grecian 2000 then that'll do for me

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  3. YP - you must be excited about the new fixture list for next season. Eastlands on Boxing Day! Bring some pork pie and Colman's mustard with a drop o' the hard stuff in a highly polished silver hip flask. It's de rigeur 'round these parts. ;-)

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