Thursday, December 31, 2015

A methane gusher & a Paris agreement…Out with the old, in with the new?

This past October 23, toxic methane gas, among the most troublemaking greenhouse gases, was noticed spewing into the atmosphere from an energy facility owned by the Southern California Gas Company. Even though the gas leak is now billed as the “worst environmental disaster since the BP Oil spill,” this story has been amazingly absent from mainstream media reporting, appearing instead in online news outlets and blogs—and then, only much after its inception! For example, it was not until December 23-24, 2015—two months later—that reported:

A runaway natural gas leak from a storage facility in the hills above Los Angeles is shaping up as a significant ecological disaster, state officials and experts say, with more than 150 million pounds of methane pouring into the atmosphere so far and no immediate end in sight.

The rupture within a massive underground containment system — first detected more than two months ago — is venting gas at a rate of up to 110,000 pounds per hour, California officials confirm. The leak already has forced evacuations of nearby neighborhoods, and officials say pollutants released in the accident could have long-term consequences far beyond the region.

Thankfully the Environmental Defense Fund became aware of the situation and released footage of the ongoing disaster to the press on December 17. Better late than never! We might wonder how long it would have taken for the news to break without the EDF’s actions.

Interestingly, this gas leak manifested just two months before the environmentally-conscious world celebrated the historic Paris Agreement—crafted during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (aka COP21), which took place between Nov. 30th and Dec. 12th. Both events are ongoing works in progress (the methane keeps spewing, defying engineers’ efforts to contain it; the Paris Agreement isn’t even official until it’s ratified in 2016-17) and although they seem to contradict each other, both events are expressions of similar, overlapping astrological timing. 

This, of course, poses a mundane astrology puzzle: how do these two events fit into the grand cosmic scheme? Do they cancel each other out? Do they represent the extremes of despair and hope that we can expect to live with going forward? Simply put, do One-plus-One = more than the sum of their parts?

Let’s look at the gas leak inception chart (below) first, set for noon, October 23rd, the day Southern California Gas Company reportedly noticed it had a big problem in its Aliso Canyon facility (geo-coordinates courtesy
 Scorpio Sun trine Neptune and the Moon (set for noon). A trine between water signs, especially involving the points we see here, could certainly reflect the release of fluids and gases. The lack of specific timing for the Moon is an issue, but the Sun and Neptune alone could account for the leak surfacing that day as well. Besides, the Moon was in Pisces throughout the 23rd, ranging from 1°+ at 12:00:01 a.m to 15°+ just before midnight, so whatever the exact timing, the Moon’s fluidity did play into the day’s major aspects. In fact, in Pisces—Neptune’s seat of power—the Moon may have triggered, or at least supported Neptune’s toxic display of power that day.

Venus, Jupiter and Mars in Virgo oppose Neptune, Moon and Chiron in Pisces. Virgo is concerned with health, the environment and pragmatic solutions to problems, so it’s possible that the Virgo trio worked to raise awareness of the toxic spill. This may have happened some time after methane actually began spewing forth, but the revelation on the 23rd would have evoked practical Virgo thinking: “you can’t solve a problem until you know what the problem is.” The EDF’s research into the magnitude and possible cause of the situation would be reflected here, as well. According to the Washington Post,

Scientists and environmental experts say the Aliso Canyon leak instantly became the biggest single source of methane emissions in all of California when it began two months ago. The impact of greenhouse gases released since then, measured over a 20-year time frame, is the equivalent of emissions from six coal-fired power plants or 7 million automobiles, environmentalists say.

In fact, the EDF has unearthed information about more toxic leaks of lesser magnitude that are also active in California—ironically, a state with among the most progressive environmental policies in the nation. Of course, Chiron opposite Mars-Jupiter speaks to the enormous, dangerous wound still being suffered by the residents of Aliso Canyon and beyond.

Saturn in Sagittarius squares Neptune in Pisces (and likely the Moon); Saturn sextiles the Node in Libra. The square certainly could stress overwhelmed structures (gas wells, pipes, etc.), especially involving the release of fluids; the sextile suggests this disaster is a cosmic “teaching moment” of sorts and there is an opportunity to replace damaging environmental practices with better ones.

Uranus in Aries squares Pluto in Capricorn, opposes Mercury in Libra and inconjuncts Venus, Jupiter and Mars in Virgo. Venus, Jupiter and Mars trine Pluto. Uranus-90-Pluto continue to perpetuate tumultuous times. Environmental disasters are fair game for this duo, especially in situations that just seem to suddenly erupt into awareness, but are really the consequence of long-term policy choices, business practices, top level power-plays, social engineering, and so on. The fact that the news (Mercury) took two months to break (opposite Uranus) suggests there were forces (Uranus inconjunct Venus-Jupiter-Mars, the latter trine Pluto) that wished to “manage” the revelation and the crisis control effort. Again, from their coverage of December 23-24, the Washington Post reported:

About 1,700 homes and two schools were evacuated because of the leak, as noxious odors settled over Porter Ranch, about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles. California officials have aided the company in a series of efforts to stop the leak, but the state officials say it could be weeks or months before the gas flow is halted.

In all fairness, we should assume that California media outlets covered this event more thoroughly than the national media did. However, we might all remember that the reporting that followed the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was much more immediate, ongoing and thorough. Not to mention, it was covered by every mainstream media outlet! What we don’t know won’t hurt us??

Meanwhile…across the “Pond”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, thousands of representatives from around the world flooded into Paris for the UNFCCC, which ran from November 30th to its extended conclusion of December 12. Not the exact timeframe of the California gas leak, but since both events are ongoing works in progress, they certainly overlap astrologically. The first event promises to dramatically roll back California’s (if not the whole country’s) environmental progress; the second event seeks to nudge the world closer to environmental sustainability in the face of fast-moving climate change. 

However one feels about climate change, deadly methane spewing into the atmosphere is an unhealthy, undesirable turn of events, so the timing of both events is ironic, if not revealing.
President Obama has extended himself further than any recent U.S. president when it comes to environmental responsibility and international agreements, but do his actions reflect the broader national agenda? Let’s consider the chart (below) for the Paris Agreement, cast for December 12th, 12 noon, in Paris, France:

Sun in Sagittarius T-squares Jupiter in Virgo opposite Chiron in Pisces. This aspect suggests the initial agreement will encounter a number of obstacles going forward, especially the distraction of military (Virgo) engagements and the threat of terrorism. (The relationship between Jupiter-Chiron and the “extremist impulse” is discussed at length here in a November 20th post). The Paris agreement won’t even be official until it is signed and ratified between April 22, 2016 and April 21, 2017 by “at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent" of global greenhouse emissions, so there’s ample time for things to go wrong.

Resolving a t-square usually requires directing one’s efforts to the “empty” 4th point opposite the focal point—in this case, 20°+Gemini—but it is worth noting that this point triggers the U.S. Sibly chart’s 7th house Mars (21°+Gem). Given the politics of the day, it would not be surprising if environmental priorities take a back seat to military ones in the U.S. during the 2016-17 period – unfortunately, other astrological dynamics ahead concur with this, a discussion for another day.

Bottom line, it appears that unless we begin viewing climate change as a bigger threat to our national security than we do terrorism (which it may very well be if California’s methane spill isn’t contained), American participation in the Paris agreement may suffer at least a temporary setback. The question is, will the rest of the world make up the 55% needed to keep the agreement alive until the U.S. can realign its priorities? 

Pluto T-squares Mars in Libra opposite Uranus in Aries; Sun in Sagittarius sextiles Mars and trines Uranus. This configuration certainly reflects the real disagreements and compromises required to achieve even this initial Paris agreement. It also points to the possibility, however, of belligerent action going forward, and while the Sun’s soft aspects with Mars and Uranus could be leveraged for the sake of climate action, the mustering of aggressive forces in this chart suggests that “soft” expressions of power like negotiation, diplomacy and cooperation will take a back seat to the more confrontational variety. It is possible that other developed nations view climate change as a top priority security issue, which would help to maintain the momentum and focus of the UNFCCC and put all this strident cardinal energy to positive use.

Saturn in Sagittarius squares Neptune in Pisces; Venus in Scorpio trines Neptune. Saturn and Neptune clearly pushed the Paris conference goers to “manifest the dream” of climate change cooperation, but sitting quietly by herself in Scorpio, Venus perhaps manipulated the contents of the agreement in some way. Disposed by a hard-nosed, business-conscious Pluto in Capricorn, she may have used a little Scorpio subterfuge to win compromises that could undermine the agreement in the long term. A lot has been said about the agreement not being legally binding; we might wonder whether Venus and Neptune here charmed the participants into believing the force of law is unnecessary. Sure, 197 nations will voluntarily meet their commitments!

 So California speaks for all?
With its current crisis, California could in fact be considered an environmental microcosm for the global challenges faced by COP21 and the Paris agreement. Greenhouse gas emissions, drought, disastrous fire seasons, flooding, mudslides, earthquakes, tsunamis—California has dealt with them all, and to their credit, they have led the charge for the U.S. on progressive environmental policies. Without doubt, the same contradictory priorities reflected in the Aliso Canyon disaster were also reflected in the Paris conference, and the astrology confirms as much. Even so, we’re not powerless in this situation–let’s make it a Happy New Year!! 

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former university English instructor. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years. Raye can be contacted by comment here, or at: 

© Raye Robertson 2015. All rights reserved. 

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