Volcanic eruption between Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull glaciers
Volcanic eruption between Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull glaciers, by Narisa and used here under a Creative Commons license.

The last few days have been interesting here in the UK, on account of a geological event taking place in Iceland – the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that is sending a huge ash cloud into European airspace and causing disruption to flights.

For several days UK airspace was completely closed, and there were no planes flying overhead. As it happens, they were also beautiful sunny days – so plenty of people were able to enjoy the sunshine without being bothered by aircraft noise or seeing their vapour trails criss-crossing the skies.

There has been a bit of a rush to capitalise on the event, from political parties in the run up to the election and from media outlets determined to get as much coverage as possible. It has led to some interesting stories.

On Monday, one of the Guardian blogs started a discussion on whether the absence of air freight would create a new wave of interest in UK-grown fruit and veg, amid stories of Kenyan farmers having to dump tonnes of produce that had been destined for sale in Britain. Can we live without green beans out of season? Of course we can! Sow a few seeds now and – even in a patio – you could keep yourself in green beans all summer.

BBC News has a more wide-ranging look at how we will be affected by the severe reduction in air travel that will be enforced when we run out of oil – many people see these last few days as a rehearsal for things to come (although the effects of Peak Oil won’t be acute enough to leave thousands of people struggling to get back from their holidays). It shows that only around 1-2% of the food that we eat is imported by air (although 90% of fruit and 60% of veg eaten in the UK is imported, most comes by sea), and we’re not going to starve from the lack of a few exotic delights. Nor will we struggle to get by without the Kenyan roses that have also been unable to arrive.

Most air freight is either perishable goods or high value items; we would be wise to save our fuel to bring in things we need in a hurry – like pharmaceutical supplies.

The Telegraph have wasted valuable energy putting up a post about whether the ash itself will be good for gardens, but there’s not enough of it falling to make an impact. And there’s plenty of discussion on which is adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere – volcanoes or aviation – which is surely a little pointless since we have both and we can only affect a reduction in one of them. If you’re interested, though, there’s a good post from Leo Hickman on that topic.

Matthew Appleby has earned the wrath of the blogosphere by stating (on his blog!) that bloggers are dull and semi-literate. He then goes on to display a press release from Seeds of Italy announcing that they are unaffected by the disruption (their seeds arrive from Europe by road) and that we could increase our food security by growing more of our own food. They might be overstating the lack of fresh food, but they have added a special easy to grow section to their website that includes collections ordered by when you need to sow them.

Sadly it seems to me that any good intentions are likely to go up in smoke now that flights have resumed, and that any lessons we could have learned are likely to be forgotten unless more ash comes our way. Still, it was nice while it lasted!