Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Neverending Oiling of the Gulf Region

Many believe that Jesus turned water into wine and now we are all witnesses to BP rapidly turning sea water into oil. Jesus is believed by many to have risen from the dead and the head of BP has promised to perform a miracle of his own and remediate (resurrect?) the resultant devastation in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Coast caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Read the story and Hayward’s quotes here:  Let us rejoice that BP’s Mr. Hayward has the powers of God to return the Gulf to its former state, before the devastation that is the ongoing ejaculation of oil from the depths of the sea bottom.

I’ve often wondered just how one “restores” the land from the ravishment of land clearing, oil spills, chemical poisoning and mountaintop removal. Is it something akin to Noah’s two by two collection of ALL of the animals aboard the Ark? Gather ye together a male and female of each and every species of plant and animal that once lived and breathed in each ecosystem that has been destroyed. Let them go forth and multiply and repopulate the land/seascape. I decree it!

I hate to be the one who bursts your bubble, Mr. Hayward, but once broken, there are some things that simply cannot be repaired or restored to their former selves. A few of the things that come to mind include: a priceless vase, innocence, a hymen, clean water, the web of life, trust and once thriving and diverse ecosystems. Realizing that even though life on our planet, the only home we have, is quite amazing and resilient does not negate the fact that life is still fragile and, once broken, dies. Regardless of your personal religious persuasion, death is a permanent end to life. What once was is no longer and is gone forever. Each and every individual life that has been lost due to this catastrophic disaster in the Gulf supported another life, whether as a source of food, a source of protection or as a caregiver. Each of the individual lives who depended upon the ones lost will now, most probably, die as well. I can’t stop thinking about the hatchlings on shore waiting for Mom or Dad to return with dinner who will die from either predation or starvation because Mom and Dad won’t be returning from the oil covered sea. Those hatchlings won’t survive to reach adulthood and, thus, to repopulate the species that has been decimated by this greedy pursuit of profit. And I think of the already endangered sea turtles who swallow the oil soaked jellyfish and die from ingesting the toxic oil. The female turtle dies, sinks to the bottom of the Gulf and her fertilized eggs, never to reach the shoreline, die within her. Another generation of endangered sea turtles lost forever.

Had the gravity of the possible consequences of this risky undertaking, drilling nearly a mile into the sea floor, been thoroughly considered, would anyone have determined that is was worth the risk? Although it appears that public sentiment is shifting away from support for offshore oil drilling, there is still a staggering percentage of people who support this gamble. Our refusal to sacrifice our thirst for a continuing supply of oil has already cost thousands of lives of men and women serving in the military, along with tens of thousands of civilian lives, the livelihoods of hundreds, if not thousands, of people along the Gulf Coast and the devastation of every ecosystem in and around the Gulf of Mexico. Isn’t it well past time to embrace a more Earth friendly approach to our energy needs?

There are simple things each of us can do to reduce our consumption of petroleum products. Some of them include: drive less; buy less packaged products, choosing instead loose fruits and vegetables; eat none or fewer animals and animal products; recycle; take reusable bags to the store instead of using plastic bags; if you use plastic bags, recycle them; turn up the thermostat by one or two degrees; donate unused goods instead of putting them into the trash and then the landfill; shop at a farmer’s market; reduce the number of products you buy that contain petroleum products, like most commercial soaps and shampoos; cook more often instead of eating out; switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs; use natural cleaners like vinegar, baking soda and borax. None of these things are difficult or painful. Give them a try. You may like it.