Monday, June 7, 2010


Along, I'm sure, with everyone else, I have been watching the seemingly unstoppable horror in the gulf, these past fifty days. As always, I also watch the (understandably) emotional finger-pointing with some dubiousness--in particular the heapings of criticism laid by the pundits on Obama. It took David Brooks, I think, a conservative columnist, to point out that we elected a thoughtful, steady-handed, rational, solution-oriented guy, so why are we now expecting him to swagger about and shoot from the hip like his predecessor? Maureen Dowd, on the other hand, condemned him for failing to be our "Daddy" when we needed one. And it does seem that we behave, collectively, like a bunch of children, who expect the world to be fashioned according to our wants and needs, and stamp our feet and pout when things don't turn out that way.

Here's the best thing I've read on the subject of the oil spill. Written by Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle, it acknowledges the dark side of this whole event: our common complicity in the demand for oil. We have known for at least forty years that this dependency was a threat to our well-being and to the natural environment, but have done nothing to address it. Indeed, the reverse, our demand has only increased, our addiction deepened. It has clearly not been a national priority to even assure the safety of the drilling operations that service that addiction, particularly those offshore. No, we Americans have embraced the notion that we deserve cheap gasoline, unlike the citizens of the vast majority of nations who pay through the nose for it. Our aversion to paying our fair share in the world has meant that no politician in his or her right mind would speak out for the obvious--a gasoline tax. It should have happened decades ago. Oh, and sensible government regulation, which might have inconvenienced our corporate sponsors... Socialism!

Morford also points to the opportunity we are being offered by this disaster: to finally recognize our responsibility and come to our senses. We could learn to recognize that we depend on these fossil fuels at a potentially devastating cost to our environment and our well-being as a nation, and that we need to agree on immediate action to come out of denial and get ourselves into rehab--the 12-step program offers a workable model, depending as it does on personal honesty and responsibility, and the support of community; to conserve, protect, and assure the safe recovery of the fossil fuels that remain to us; and most importantly to devote our national energies, resources and innovative skills to the development of alternative sources of energy.

Sounds simple and obvious. Those of us on the left look to the man we elected as President for leadership, but we tend to forget that leadership is impracticable without followership. We are in extreme danger of leaving him up the flagpole on which we have hoisted him, flapping helplessly in every unfriendly gust that comes along. No one, it seems, is prepared to sacrifice an iota of personal well-being--or personal opinion--for what is so clearly the common good. Absurdly, we conspire against our own best interests. So now, with the results of our short-sightedness in plain view to all, will we persist in exculpating ourselves and assigning our responsibility elsewhere? Or will we be able to look into the mirror of this murky mass of filth that pollutes the Gulf and see the reflection of the dark side of ourselves?


Nathan said...

I have never found our president's policy proposals inpsiring, and he's been slow to warm up on action in terms of the oil spill itself, but it's ridiculous how much spite and baseless criticism is being heaped on him right now.

We can point to the oil companies in the short term because they are predatory, greed driven entities that need to be reigned in before they destroy even more of the planet. But at the end of the day, in the long run, it's each of us living in privileged places like the U.S. that is responsible for this disaster. You're right on about that, and the sooner we all wake up to it, the better.

khengsiong said...

Over here, an oil tanker accident which happened recently in the water of Singapore also resulted in oil spill, though in a much smaller scale.

Dr Mahathir, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, was fiercely anti-America. Yet during his terms - which lasted 22 years - this country had adopted American-style urban planning. While older cities are fairly pedestrian-friendly, newer townships are completely car-dependent. That's the sad thing...

CHI SPHERE said...

We had two Honda Elements until the spill did become the toxic looking glass come out of the rabbit hole of self deception. I sold one of them yesterday. My bike is worn but well maintained and I have burned up two sets of tires on it in the last year.

My boys are for the first time in their lives horror struck to learn that the spill has killed vast portions of the ocean habitat that they have fished in with their grandfather. I have ordered an all electric 2011 Nissan Leaf and used the 10K of the 11K from the Element as a down payment. I did hold back $1,000 for a new bike with shock absorbing pegs and long lasting tires.

Obama is prosecuting BP alright and today on NBC's Today Show will express his anger by using some soft expletives to express his anger and intentions to direct his venom towards those who are directly responsible for the stupidity and greed that led to the horror and destruction of our exquisite ocean from which we emerged in our early amphibian state. I learned early in life not to shit where I eat.

With many others I have marched, boycotted, voted,
written my congress person, spent time cleaning beaches with the others who put in their time with or without pay to clean up the oil.

My suggestion is that all residents of the Gulf who's
way of life has come to a sudden end be employed by BP and our government to do the clean up work.
By my calculations if 50,000 diplaced citizens were paid the minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, to work 40 hours a week doing this work it would cost
$14,500,000 a week or $754 million a year for 6 years to get the coastline close to clean.

The marshland and Mississippi Delta and adjacent states wetlands are gone for 20 years dear friends. The under sea bed is also in certain peril but can come back. See Enric Sala on this at or read in Nature what the scientific community feels is possible in Colin Macilwain's article "World view:Disaster, unmitigated".

Obama can use the bully pulpit to hurry up all alternative energy production by making it a national goal to put the solar, wind, geothermal, wave energy and above all conservation ethic at the forefront of a sound and progressive energy policy.

Anonymous said...

There's always a price to pay sooner or later!

~pants~ said...

The REAL BP Boycott = We can replace Oil with HEMP.

Anonymous said...

As an alternative to a gas tax I propose we should consider riving being a privilege not a right. And limit driving to six days a week. Perhaps the month a auto registration is to be renewed could be used to indicate the non-driving day so to allow the law enforcers of law to know when someone's car is not to be used.

mandt said...

"Morford also points to the opportunity we are being offered by this disaster: to finally recognize our responsibility and come to our senses." Not going to happen. The power of oil wealth will simply ride this out until the next time. As for Obama, aside from his Aurelian mythology and keen intelligence he will prove to be a brilliant incompetent without any cohesive vision or will to greatness. What a disappointment! Like Clinton he will fail the test of history and America will sink further into mediocrity.