I'm currently working on a show I like to call "Katrina porn," one of a spate of shows that viscerally display what would happen in the event of an unimaginable natural disaster, like, say, the caldera under Yellowstone National Park erupting.
We might get to see something like that shortly:
A thick column of sulfurous smoke surged into the sky today as Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia, continued to show signs of an imminent eruption.
The Indonesian Center for Volcano Research and Technology Development here on Java in the shadow of Merapi recently issued its second most serious alert. All the conditions for an eruption exist, the authorities said.
Daily tremors are recorded by state-of-the-art seismographic equipment, while strategically placed video cameras monitor the tower of smoke.
But it is Merapi's mythical power, not its natural power, that might prove too great for the local government to handle. Many of the nearby villagers are distrustful of modern science and the government, turning instead to beliefs steeped in ancient Javanese mythology. As a result, most of the 60,000 people living within striking distance are ignoring the government's call to abandon their homes.
"This is now very serious," said Mulyono, village head for Hargobinangun on the southern slope of Merapi. "We are urging residents to evacuate."
Mythological beliefs trumping reality aside, the effect of a blast like this could have wide-reaching consequences well outside Indonesia. The biggest eruption in Indonesia, at Tambora in 1815, caused an ash cloud that made its way around the globe, depressing global temperatures and causing winter weather in August in the summer of 1816 in New England. Yes, a year later. I don't think Merapi is that big. But if nobody's evacuating, certainly the potential for catastrophe is great locally. And don't forget that Indonesia is an archipelago, which means that any disruption to the tectonic plates there is likely to cause a tsunami, further aftershocks, or more. The Krakatoa eruption killed upwards of 70,000, very few from the lava. It was the wall of water it kicked up.
Maybe I'm sensitive to this because of the Katrina porn I'm working on. But this could be bad.