Only a week ago, the volcano Eyjafjallajoekull in Iceland erupted after having been dormant for 200 years. It has now erupted causing a massive ash cloud which has put Europe to a complete halt. From what at first seemed a mere environmental event, it is now the cause of massive flight disruptions which are having consequences on all sort of people, industries and sectors – not merely tourism.
Not many know that industries such as the flower industry are suffering a major loss due to the transport problems. Another category deeply affected by the situation is that of foreign students who are generally about to enter their examination period. For instance, UK university students who left the country to return home for the Easter holidays and who are now forced to find other means of transportation to return to their universities on time before exams start. It is also clear that postal and delivery services could also be affected causing an immediate and radical change in the European industrialized and interconnected system.
Unfortunately, not only Europe but also other parts of the world will be or already have been affected by the current situation in two ways. Either due to the risk of the winds changing direction of the ash cloud spread (it has been forecast that the cloud might go towards Canada) or due to the transportation and economical problems affecting countries that are connected to European ones (virtually, the entire world!).
It has already been stated that the damages have surpassed those of 9/11 in 2001 deriving from an intentional terrorist attack. It makes us wonder how weak our system is if something so major and unpredictable disrupts it to such an extent.
Our globalized system of interconnectedness and interdependence is strong when everything works according to ‘plan’, however one single disruption quickly and practically instantaneously become near to catastrophe for the entire world on a social, economical, political level. I think this should also be a hint to question ourselves on whether the greatest risks of the current world mainly come from terrorism – as the recent Nuclear Summit seems to suggest – or whether the risks are more wide-fold, thus deriving from natural and unforeseeable causes such as natural calamities. It is also interesting to note that these natural catastrophes could serve the interests of those terrorist groups that attempt or intend to carry out large-scale actions to disrupt or destroy. If we look at the more recent natural events that have affected the world – from the Chile earthquake, to the Chinese Sichuan province earthquake – we can see how unprepared we were and how disruptive they have been. The most peculiar character of the Icelandic volcanic eruption is that it has not taken human lives but it has, quite literally, invested so many of them in a number of different aspects of their lives. This ‘disruption model’ has proven to be extremely effective and maybe it could be used by terrorist groups to gather ideas and data on how to create similar consequences through intended and deliberate actions. This feature is what, in my opinion, makes it a very good starting point to review our general system of interdependence also with the view of protecting ourselves from possible terrorist attacks.