SpruceRoots Magazine - May 2000

I've spent a good part of my life wondering about a number of things that relate to people, animals, strange phenomena, and the world at large. If I were a disciplined person, I might do some research and find answers to many of my questions. Unfortunately, I'm not a disciplined person, and there's not much chance of me becoming one.

Here are a few of the things that have me stumped:

1. Why haven't I ever won a lottery? I deserve to be fabulously wealthy.

2. Why don't my cornmeal muffins turn out like my mother's?

3. How did I wind up with granddogs instead of grandchildren?

4. Why can't I watch scary movies without plugging my ears?

5. Why is thinking about gardening more fun than gardening?

6. What, exactly, is the purpose of tonsils?

7. When are my teenaged sons going to admit the odds are excellent that eleven juice glasses, five tablespoons, six cereal bowls, nine butter knives, and all of my scotch tape, are buried somewhere in their bedrooms?

8. How did my Dad get to be so good at everything he does?

9. Why do I write?

10. How can ducks eat slugs?

11. Why is it so mortifying when you rest your chin in your hand and your elbow slips off the edge of the table?

12. Why won't my grown daughter throw away her old, hairy, winter-boots that look like sasquatch feet? I jump every time I see them in the basement.

13. In light of all the barrels of oil that have been pumped out of the earth since oil drilling was invented, is it any wonder that the world seems to be experiencing stronger, more frequent earthquakes?

I posed question 13 during a friend's dinner party a few months ago, and everybody's forks froze in mid-air. Then the person I was seated beside asked if I was getting enough rest, and spooned more salad into my bowl.

Scientists tell us that beneath the earth's surface are gigantic plates, and they're not referring to turkey platters. These plates are made of rock and constantly push against each other. Sometimes, when the pressure becomes too great, one plate will slip and wind up lying partially atop another. Or something like that. In any case, it's the slippage that causes an earthquake.
In some parts of the world billions of barrels of oil have been pumped out of the ground. My theory is that this massive extraction of oil is leaving enormous empty "pockets" beneath the earth's surface, thereby making it easier for the plates to shift and slip. Hence the increasing numbers and severity of earthquakes.

Back to the aforenoted dinner party: Someone there told me that I didn't have to worry my head about empty pockets because there aren't any. He said that water is pumped into wells after the oil has been extracted, in order to maintain pressure. I don't know whether that particular bit of information is true. But if it is, I don't think the water is helping much. I haven't noticed a breathtaking reduction in earthquakes or anything.

Crude oil and water differ in viscosity. In addition to this, oil is a lubricant. To my way of thinking water doesn't cut it as a substitute. So I ask you: Would you rather have earth's plates surrounded by oil, or by water? Personally, I picture oil helping to keep some of the things under the earth's surface running smoothly, much in the same way it helps an engine run smoothly. If that image doesn't sound plausible, try exchanging water for the oil in your car tomorrow and watch what happens.

At any rate, I'm revising my earthquake theory in order to cover all the bases. Here's the new one: If oil extracted from the earth is not being replaced with anything, no wonder we have so many earthquakes. On the other hand, if the oil is being replaced with water, I'm almost positive the world's innards are sloshing around like crazy, and no wonder we have so many earthquakes.

Ta da.


SpruceRoots Magazine - May 2000