I’ve been getting requests from some people to comment on BP, the oil disaster, and the impact on our environment. I have been following this story pretty closely since it first broke, and have worried about the health of the Gulf Coast ecologies and communities. I hope everyone who comes across this post realizes what this was: a failed experiment by a massive corporation that considered itself above any moral, ethical, or written laws, to make huge profits off an unproven system. The blowout preventer had never been tested at 5000 feet [nearly one mile], and should never have been tested in such a manner. However, BP understood how much oil they could harness, if they were successful, and they deemed the potential profits worth the risks involved. This is where one of the primary problems in this scenario lie: a corporation decided that the risks faced by our environment and our communities was worth the potential profits they could make by tapping the oil reserves at the base of the Gulf of Mexico. Sound familiar? How about Wall Street deciding that the risks faced by our collective financial well-being were worth the potential profits they would make off of trading on residuals? We need to wake-up and realize that as long as we continue to elect lawmakers in this country who are beholden to large corporations, we will be at the mercy of those entities. We need to understand that our environment is not something that should, or ought, to be gambled based on a risk assessment memo produced by a for profit corporation. This disaster will have ecological ramifications that the best computer simulations cannot even begin to predict at this point. What’s disheartening to me is that people seemed to only respond to the real crisis when they saw the lack of availability of shrimp and other gulf products in their local supermarkets, or when they saw the price of those products when they were available. This is where one of the other primary problems in this scenario comes into play: human nature. We are selfish by nature, and it is only when we are personally affected by an event that we take notice. This results from a genetic predisposition shared by all organisms, but we can overcome it through our cultural teachings, but we must act fast.

Right now, there are voices in our country stating that this is not a disaster, that the environmental groups are overreacting to the impacts of the spill, and the most insidious of these talking heads have proposed that environmental groups were responsible for, or complicit in, the spill. As if the Sierra Club was some hippie version of the Heritage Foundation and Deepwater Horizon was the aquatic equivalent of the Twin Towers. This sort of talk reveals more about the source than the target. Neocons in this country saw the attacks on 9/11 as a tragedy and great opportunity for our country. They used the attacks as a rallying cry for the country which led to the invasion of Iraq and record profits for military contractors throughout our nation. While the portrayal of the Deepwater Horizon disaster as some sort of blessing for US environmental groups is the most insane and extreme rhetoric emerging to this point, there is more. Some of our lawmakers are in complete denial about the severity of the situation, saying that the oil spill is, “…not an environmental disaster.” [Don Young (R) Alaska]. Still others are slow to condemn BP, their practices or even the practice of offshore drilling.

Understand this. BP is to blame for this disaster because their high risk practices allowed it to happen. To that end, BP must pay for the costs of cleanup and recovery – without limitation. Further, we must put a moratorium on offshore drilling, until further studies are completed on the equipment involved and their shortcomings. Third, we must put greater emphasis on finding ways to feed our power hungry societies without drilling – alternatives HAVE to be found. Finally, we must vote with our votes. We need to find and elect leaders who are visionaries and forward thinking, not slaves to the system and the corporations who keep paying for their campaigns. We are reaching a critical time in the history of our nation and the world, in which we have to move past our innate propensity to accept risk of our environmental health for increased resource availability. We need to understand the ramifications of our actions, and act accordingly. This begins with each of us and our approach to the world around us.