Is The Moment Of True Change
At first the idea of this oil spill in the Gulf seemed comprehensible.
I'd long wondered what would happen if one of those giant pipes
stretching a mile down to the ocean floor ruptured. Had heard
about such fears during Katrina and other hurricanes racing
through the area over time. I had read about the great spill
off the Campeche coast that took nine months to quell, and the
millions of barrels let loose into the Persian Gulf during our
first war with Iraq in the early 1990s. I recalled coming across
stories about a 60 acre lake of oil that surfaced in California
when a gusher went wild for several years, while researching
background stirred up by the wild tales of greed underlying
the recent film, There Will Be Blood.
Everyone seemed to be doing all they could to shut the thing
down. The contraptions and plans seemed wildly inventive, but
also wildly optimistic as images of blackened turtles and sea
birds, mucked-up marshes and angry fishermen from an area we
had visited several times, and grew to love, kept flooding the
That's when the endless video of the oil gushing started showing.
And the metaphors started shifting around.
Instead of this being the simple rupturing of a man-made vessel
with a finite amount of toxic materials let loose on a landscape,
which some of our angriest pundits were saying was still a bigger
danger than any deep sea drilling, people started talking about
having scratched open a scab and let loose a Pandora's Box of
trouble on the world. Simultaneously, predictions for a worse-than-usual
hurricane season fast approaching led many to begin speaking
in apocalyptic tones.
Within this context, continuing critical assertions of blame
backed with calls for even more drilling in other sensitive
areas have started to look more and more disingenuous, and have
largely stopped by the time we go to press. References are now
being made to what was done back in the late 1970s, when the
Ixtoc Spill started lapping up onto Texas beaches and thousands
of sea turtles were airlifted to new homes. Early assertions
that the Persian Gulf spill wasn't as bad as originally predicted
have been reversed and suddenly, the idea of environmentalism
has risen once again to the forefront of many minds.
Following the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 - a minor one
in the context of all that's come since - the nation, under
President Nixon's leadership of all people, created a powerful
Environmental Protection Agency. A time of growing government
responsibilities for the health and welfare of all citizens
took over the nation, and world... at least until Santa Barbara's
Ronald Reagan rode to the White House 10 years later and started
deregulating everything he could, and never mentioning Ixtoc
in his campaigning.
Now, we're suspecting the shift away from carbon fuels will
accelerate, no matter a few expected set-backs, political and
industrial, as our course shifts significantly. The idea of
gas drilling in the watershed is doomed... although folks need
to stay wary here and in surrounding areas as those businesses
still tied to its profits - like wounded beats pushed into corners
- continue to fight for their "rights" however wrong-headed.
There's a sad inevitability to all this. What have we been thinking,
picking such scabs without any deep thought to what we were
I suspect that, more than 2008, we'll look back at this current
season, this 2010, as a time for real change. And we're not
talking politics, now, but ones based on livelihood, on the
very foundations of all that is civilization.