Sometimes I can only shake my head at the irony of our species calling itself Homo Sapiens, meaning “wise man”, given the sheer idiocy of so many of our actions.

Fellow Grist contributor John Upton just posted a report on the massive and ongoing tar sands oil spill near Cold Lake Alberta.   Nobody seems to know how to stop it because it is the result of a relatively new process of pressurizing underground oil reserves.  In this process thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam are injected deep underground.  This liquefies the hard bitumen and creates cracks through which it can flow and be pumped to the surface.  As Upton points out, there is no off button for this type of blow out.

So-called wise men once again using technology they can’t control to make a buck.

My disgust was already fomenting when I saw two articles today in Huffington Post.  The first showed photos of the North Pole in its current state as a lake and noted that last summer’s arctic ice cover was the lowest on record.  The second article reported that researchers at the University of Cambridge and Erasmus University in the Netherlands used economic modeling to calculate the costs of methane releases due to thawing permafrost.  Their figure of up to $60 trillion is close to the current size of the total world economy.   The costs would be even higher if factors such as ocean acidification were included.

The article concluded by reporting that Lloyd’s of London estimated that arctic oil and gas reserves could draw investment of up to $100 billion within a decade.

Viewing the melting arctic as an opportunity to find and burn even more fossil fuel?  A gnat has more wisdom than that.