Volcanoes are Earth’s way of passing gas
One of the downsides of living in paradise is that volcanic activity is somehow included in "weather" reports.
You turn on your morning news and the weather reporter says things like, "There's a 30 percent chance of rain and an 80 percent chance of volcanic eruption. If you go outside, take an umbrella." Because we all know how good umbrellas are at protecting you from a shower of falling fiery rocks.
The biggest danger for most people in Hawaii from volcanoes isn't lava, but the misnamed emission called "vog." Vog is short for "volcanic smog," which it isn't really. Smog is fog polluted with smoke , and has nothing to do with the noxious clouds of sulfur dioxide and other dangerous gases that come out of volcanoes.
If you think of Earth as a human body, smog is what is created when the body is smoking a cigarette and blowing the smoke into the air. Vog is more like what comes out from the other side, from deep within the bowels of the Earth. Yes, volcanoes are the Earth's way of passing gas.
So, really, vog should be called vas, short for volcanic gas.
Whatever you call it, vog or vas, its nasty stuff. But I'm not sure I'd call it weather. Weather seems more related to winds, rain, snow, temperature and barometric pressure. The classic definition of weather -- according to Mark Twain -- is that weather is something everybody talks about but nobody does anything about it. Because you can't.
There isn't much you can do about volcanoes, either. Except not live next to them. Unlike weather, which is everywhere, active volcanoes are few and far between. Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island has been erupting since 1983 and is the most active volcano on the planet. The next closest is "the future newest Hawaiian island," Loihi. But Loihi doesn't really count since it's underwater and nobody's going to live next to it. To visit the next closest land-based active volcanoes, you have to go to Indonesia, the Philippines or the Aleutian Islands. The point is, you have to work hard to find an active volcano to live next to.
The other point is that if you decide to live next to an active volcano, you have to accept responsibility for whatever horrible things happen to you or your property. I mean, the volcano was there first, by about a million years. So I was a little surprised that some Big Island farmers were disappointed that they were offered only low-cost loans instead of being paid outright by the U.S. government when their commercial flower crops were wiped out by vas (aka vog). One farmer complained that in the past, the government paid for at least 30 percent of their losses. Why? Eruptions are not weather. If I decide to farm next to a volcano, why should the government pay me when Mother Earth decides to pass gas in my general direction? I say, if you can't stand the heat (or the gas), get outta the volcano zone, baby.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
at any book retailer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org