Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reflections on a Spill

"Spill is 'worst US eco-disaster.'"

This was a BBC headline gracing my iGoogle homepage when I logged onto the internet this morning.

Sure. I get it.

I have found it easy to reach new levels of despair and panic in the wake of the unrelenting flow of oil and gas entering the Gulf of Mexico from the now infamous BP Horizon oil rig. But is this incident the "worst" ecological disaster in United States history? And, if it is the worst, what does that tell us about how we identify an "eco-disaster"? And how do we respond?

The "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico well predates the BP oil spill, and could this not also be considered an eco-disaster of similar proportions? No doubt, the continuing flow of oil from the collapsed Horizon rig, at some 25,000 barrels a day, will no doubt contribute, if not well expand, the size of that dead zone in the Gulf, most noticeably along the coast of Gulf-bordering countries like the United States and Cuba.

Or take one of the leading contributors of greenhouse gases in the United States: industrial agriculture. Is this not an "eco-disaster" of similar proportions to the on-going BP oil spill?

Or take our own bodies, with diseases increasingly linked to the pollutants we encounter on a regular basis. Is this not a contender for the "worst 'US eco-disaster'" in history?

The current attention paid to the callous disregard for Life exemplified by BP and the federal government, the latter in the form of the Minerals Management Service, is little more than a high-profile acknowledgment of the pestiferous wake of an institutional juggernaut in which we are, for the most part, passengers.

As I and many others see it, the immediate challenge posed by the BP oil spill is its containment and the minimization of its negative environmental and economic impact. As of today, this challenge has been confronted with what appears to be a sad farce of human energy, imagination, and technology.

The next challenge is to reflect on what this oil spill shows us about how we live, and the societal and environmental conditions under which that life is possible. In short, our lifestyles, at least my own, depend largely on pollution and environmental and human exploitation. In response, action must be taken to increase the amount of mutually beneficial relationships between human beings as well as between humans and all that our activity relies upon and affects.

For some of us, this conclusion was made long before the BP oil spill occurred, and appropriate actions, both individual and collective, are underway. Some who have not yet drawn this conclusion, may still not draw it. But that should perhaps be of little concern to those of us who are committed to positive social change and real hope for the future.

No majority of the general population, as near as I can tell, has ever effectively struggled for democracy or has aspired toward "beloved community." Indeed, it has only been effectively organized and well-positioned minorities that have done, and continue to do, so. Therefore, keep the faith, and keep to the work.

On a personal level, perhaps the best immediate response to the present oil spill, in full awareness of its implications for human, animal, and plant life alike, may be to tell a dear friend that you love them, and to affirm, in thought or deed, that we are staying the course.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Greenhouse update...weeks later

The saga of our plastic bottle greenhouse continues...

Today, about 10 parents of children who attned the Corl Street Elementary School in State College worked with 2 members of 3E and a scad of third graders to get us to the next phase. We washed, cut, and sorted a few thousand more bottles while the physical plant guys for the district planted the posts and poured the concrete to set them in. Because the concrete has to set and part of the wall frame was used for it, we couldn't carry on with the frame and fix bottles to it.Kind of a bummer but so it goes. It started raining heavily anyway so it's not so bad that I've gotten to come back in.

That said, I am blown away by two things
1. Those third graders are awesome. They were enthusiastic while they washed and cut bottles, sorted them, and cut dowel rods. Our own Becky M. made this whole fun workstation thing and the children worked together on it so well. Some of them came back during recess to help us. I was personally pretty touched.

2. Holy giant amount of work that uses a giant amount of junk! I said in a previous post, "I am personally dumbfounded by the sheer volume of bottles we’ve gotten from the Office of Physical Plant’s bar pit. And these are the bottles that have been recycled. For every bottle that we’ve gotten from the recycling here, another one was probably thrown away." Putting that sheer volume into workable shape using just ordinary tools (water, soap, scissors, razors, dowel rods, nails/fencing staples, hammer, nails, screws, and power drill) is pretty crazy. I'm thinking that today's pure human work hours is somewhere around 50.
We should have some pictures pretty soon to show some more of this. Once the weather clears, I'll be heading over in the mornings to put the frame up piece by piece.

[To track back go here, here, and here.]