Sunday, November 11, 2007


Mourn for the seabirds, and the fish, and the crabs. Mourn for the beaches, and the creatures that live on them. Mourn for the people who eat the fish they catch at the piers. Mourn for the migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway. We have destroyed San Francisco Bay. Our addiction to oil has murdered the creatures, and covered San Francisco Bay with oily sludge.

The blame game has begun. Was it the bar pilot? Was it the ship's Chinese crew? Were the instruments bad? Was the fog part of the problem? Can we sue the owners of the ship? Who owns the ship, anyway? In a real sense, none of this matters; the damage is done, and the cleanup will take months if we're lucky, years if we're not. They're still finding stuff from the Exxon Valdez spill. But in a real sense, we are all, ourselves, responsible - because we can't stop using the oil.



  1. Anonymous11:19 PM

    Now I am sick, and you are right, hedera. Your comment echoes Greenpeace's stance when the Exxon Valdez disaster occurred.

    Anonymous David

  2. We are all sick, David. It breaks my heart to think about it.

  3. To give a little historical perspective, hedera.

    When we were kids, my parents used to drive us across the Carquinas Bridge, and through the little string of workingclass communities which where threaded by the road that was eventually replaced by the hiway 80 superlanes: Rodeo, Pinole, Hercules, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Richmond, Berkeley. The road went straight through the middle of the Standard Oil Refinery, its huge menagerie of steel towers and pipes, all spewing thick, oily, pollution. The smell was so bad, we rolled up the windows and held our breaths as long as we could. Then, as we proceeded up past Point Richmond and towards Golden Gate Fields, there was the estuary, filled with thick black oily sludge, car tires, construction refuse, and a smell you couldn't describe.

    In those days the Bay was so polluted it reeked. The sand and mud on the shorelines was literally sticky. Raw sewage often flowed down Strawberry Creek to the Bay near the Ashby Exit. You could see it foaming out a 100 yards from the bank.

    Those days are gone. But the refineries have begun pushing the envelope again, taking advantage of the Republican administration's lax enforcement, and residents of Rodeo, Hercules, Richmond, etc., are once again having to raise a stink about air quality. That's one reason the oil cartels charge Bay Area residents so much more for gas--we're being "punished" for requiring safety and pollution controls.

    Oil spills are easily avoided, but the shipping industry is almost totally controlled by foreign interests. 99% of everything on these cargo and tanker ships is routine, so the captain and his lieutenants tend to get lackadaisical, lazy. Then, you have a crew of ordinary seamen running things, and they tend to get confused with all the technology, especially in unfamiliar waters.

    Residents are advised against eating any seafood caught within 10 miles of the Bay Area coast. That includes shellfish, bass, salmon.

    I once met the man whose (secret) job it was to "open the bilges" of the San Francisco utility districts sewer system, and let the "overflow" into San Francisco Bay. This occurred at predictable intervals, and was never officially acknowledged. Officially, it "never happened." Except that it did, all the time. Often during storms, or during "peak times" when the existing processing capacity was exceeded. Unofficially, the city knew about it, and there was an accepted level of tolerance. This guy was assigned to do it, so no one in a position of authority would ever have to admit to having done it. It would "just happen". "Beyond our control." "Unfortunate accident...." Etc.

  4. I remember that drive myself, Curtis, although the single thing that sticks in my mind was the huge stack of dull grey lead ingots, at the smelter you passed just after coming off the Carquinez Bridge. I certainly remember that string of little towns, each with its 1 or 2 stoplights. The road is still there, for those of you who don't know what we're talking about: it's San Pablo Avenue.

    I don't, oddly enough, remember the pollution you describe. I don't dispute your account, I just don't remember it. I must have been so excited about the trip that I didn't notice; which is how people get away with these things. On the other hand, I was only around 10 years old...

    On the oil spill, the finger pointing has begun; did you read the article in today's Chron where the bar pilot accused the ship's captain (who seems never to have navigated that ship in these waters before)?

  5. Anonymous4:30 PM

    I could imagine, in more primitive times, just shooting someone, although it wouldn't make the sludge go away or bring back all the dead birds and marine life. And truth is, I couldn't do it anyway. Stangle the bastard, maybe...

    Anonymous David