Diplomat gives Natural Disaster talk at Sidmouth’s NLO

Sidmouth’s Norman Lockyer Observatory hosts Sir Crispin Tickell lecture

MORE than 100 people attended Sidmouth’s Norman Lockyer Observatory on Saturday to hear a remarkable lecture on Natural Disasters by the distinguished diplomat Sir Crispin Tickell.

Sid Valley Energy Action Group jointly organised the event with NLO. It was, writes Jackie Green of SVEAG, “an inspirational sweep through millions of years of our vulnerable planet’s history.

“The venue was particularly appropriate as Sir Crispin has the dual honour of having both an asteroid and a new observatory (in Mexico) named after him.

“Drawing on his unique overview, gained from an extraordinary career in public service , ranging from advising successive prime ministers (notably Margaret Thatcher), to being president of the Royal Geographical Society, he calmly analysed the various hazards facing us.”

Sir Crispin began with a survey of regular catastrophic collisions between Earth and objects from space, including asteroids and comets, which have created our moon, affected the rotation of the planet, and determined the evolution of life.

He said: “Events inside and outside our galaxy, for example the explosion of a supernova, can generate bursts of immensely destructive radiation, but without such explosions life as we know it could not exist. We are literally stardust.”

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He focused on disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, putting into context the terrible recent destruction in Japan compared to cataclysmic events that provoked ice ages, which wiped out some species, allowing others, including Homo Sapiens, to survive.

Humankind, according to Sir Crispin, now represents another potential disaster for the planet after a staggering rise in human numbers since the industrial revolution that threatens Earth’s delicate balance of life and environment.

He said the worst could be averted by greater international cooperation in confronting both extra-terrestrial threats and earthly hazards, a check on and reversal of the population explosion and a fundamental re-think of our way of life, replacing a greedy, consumer society with a humbler, lighter footprint on the planet.

There was a lively question and answer session before David Strange, observatory chairman, presented Sir Crispin with a photograph taken at the NLO, showing Asteroid Tickell orbiting Pluto.