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.

1 comment:

  1. "In short, our lifestyles, at least my own, depend largely on pollution and environmental and human exploitation."
    And it is our duty to continue the transformation toward a beautiful world that is sound in its environmental philosophy and centralizes compassion.