We're now going on to months (plural) of hearing about the barrels of oil that are spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. First, there were the stories about facts -- how events were unfolding and all the failed attempts at fixes. Then, we move on to the impact stories and the hearings on Capitol Hill and the congressmen looking very serious about getting answers. And now, of course, we're in the blame game portion of our news cycle. Depending on where you fall on the political spectrum, you can find a way to blame the spill on Obama, the Republicans, big corporations, greed, and I'm sure the Buchanans and the Robinsons and their ilk will somehow find a way to link this to the evil women and gays who God is punishing. If it wasn't so scary (HELLO, there is a ton of oil leaking into the environment!), the whole media routine would laughable. But it's not. It's predicatable.
We all want somebody to blame. But this is what happens when you keep trying to take, take, take from a finite resource. You hit a wall eventually. When you think you can continue to just steal and plunder natural resources for your own use and/or profit, without any thought or examination of the consequences, you (and I mean the big cultural 'you') are going to meet your match eventually. Naomi Klein (who is my girlfriend in my Second Life where we are a power lesbian couple fighting the man through great journalism) wrote about this recently in her Guardian column, Gulf Oil Spill: A Hole in the World. She writes:
"This Gulf coast crisis is about many things – corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it's about this: our culture's excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us. But as the BP disaster has revealed, nature is always more unpredictable than the most sophisticated mathematical and geological models imagine. "
Look, I'm not a tree hugger. I drive a big car and I love my AC, and I don't use cloth diapers or compost. Sometimes I even forget to recycle. But as an individual, I try to offset what bad choices I make by making better choices in other areas -- using only energy efficient appliances, eating locally, not driving if I can walk or take public transportation, etc. Why is this so hard for corporations to do this? It's basic common sense -- you take, you give back.
Side note: You can spare me the profit arguments. In the case of the oil companies and drilling and needing new sources of revenue -- please. I feel fairly confident that the demand for oil is not going to demand anytime soon. You'll still get paid. Don't worry.
I find it disheartening that people are hoping to find someone to blame so that we can fix this issue quickly and move on to the next BIG THING to freak out about (is anyone still talking about Haiti? Or H1N1? Or whatever last year's crisis was?) We want this to pass too and go away. But there is no quick fix here.
For a first hand account of what's happening in the Gulf, go check out my friend, Terry's web page, describing what it was like to be back in his hometown in Louisiana and seeing how everyone has already been affected. People's whole way of life is disappearing, and there's really not a damn thing we're able to do about it.
So what to do? My woefully uneducated answers. In the near term, stop and contain the oil. I cannot believe this is even still an issue, but it is. Help the people who can't work and pay their claims. Long term, I can't think of a better example of why we need to either find renewable energy sources and more sustainable ways of doing business. And if I put on my "communications professional" hat, there needs to be a massive public education campaign around why this matters and how they are connected.