Thursday, April 22, 2010

Somebody's Backyard

Irony is always arresting if not necessarily always funny.  The irony this Earth Day is the burning oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, on which NPR is reporting regularly.  I heard a clip about it on Morning Edition today.  The fire is now big enough that it shows on satellite images.  If you listen to the clip, you'll hear industry analyst Scott Burke (sp?), of Oppenheimer, say this:  
"The good thing about being offshore is that it's far enough away that you're not going to be polluting somebody's backyard, or it's not causing any potential danger to a neighborhood or anything like that, so politically I think the fallout should be relatively contained."

I listened to the clip about 5 times to make sure I quoted him accurately.  Is that what you really think, Mr. Burke?  As long as nobody sees this mess when they look out their kitchen window, it'll all be fine.  The 11 missing oil rig workers are just a cost of business.  

Look, BP isn't polluting somebody's back yard, here.  They're polluting everybody's back yard.  The oil slick from this thing is now one mile by five miles in size.  We call the seas by different names, but essentially the Earth has one ocean.  This is one localized instance of the general fouling of our own nest that we've been doing for 200 years.  We've actually been doing it for a lot longer; but only in the last 200 years have there been enough of us using efficient enough tools that we can really do a thorough job.  Throwing the soup bone out the door into the yard, while mildly messy, isn't in the same class as spilling five square miles of oil in the Gulf of Mexico - and besides, the dog will eat the bone.  Apart from some bacteria (which we should be cultivating for this) I can't think of anything that eats petroleum.

Everybody's fussing about whether humans are or aren't responsible for climate change; of course we are.  It's just a special case of the larger practice we've had for the last 200 years of dumping everything we have no immediate use for out into the world we live in.  As I said, we're fouling our own nest.  We're the only animal that does.  The trouble with Mother Nature is that she always bats last.  If we make the world too hot and messy for the human race to continue to live in, we will die; but Mother Nature will go on.  She has no opinion about the relative merits of a world inhabited by us versus a world inhabited by cockroaches.

1 comment:

  1. Cockroaches. Maybe they're not so bad after all. They eat what we leave around or spill in the corner. I've never heard of cockroaches biting people, or carrying disease. But I suppose they're technically unsanitary.

    "Not in my backyard" is a nice bit of privilege. Republicans have always liked starting new communities, new homes, new roads, new shopping centers. New water lines, new sewer lines, new garbage dumps, new police departments handing out big parking tickets. Check out those instant new communities in Utah and Colorado and Arizona. The people who live in them have "escaped" from the problems of the cities, from the nasty, dirty, unsightly fuss and muss of a decaying, formerly "new" culture.

    But the new hygienic culture is just as dirty and corrupt and inconvenient as the old one--it just has a new coat of paint.

    Pollution has overtaken us. But people are stupid. The only thing that will get their attention is disease and death, and those will surely follow if we keep traveling down the road we're presently on. What happens to all those gulf shrimp if we spill oil on their spawning beds? Not good for those New Orleans restaurant menus, that's for sure.