From Big Problems to Begin the Phaseout

Posted by Janet -

Thu, Jun 17, 2010

Oil Spill

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By Janet Weil

The names of the 11 men killed instantly in the Deepwater Horizon explosion have rarely been spoken in public, or written in the media. Here they are: Jason Anderson, 35; Aaron Dale Burkeen, 37; Donald Clark, 34; Stephen Curtis, 39; Gordon Jones, 28; Roy Wyatt Kemp, 27; Karl Klepping, 38; Blair Manuel, 56; Dewey Revette, 48; Shane Roshto, 22; and Adam Weise, 24. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_drilling_rig_explosion

And now, nearly two months into the worst environmental disaster in US history, we can read the 11 words that helped doom them to a tragic death, and brought about the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico that Louie Miller Mississippi state director of the Sierra Club, called “America’s Chernobyl.” http://www.wlox.com/Global/story.asp?S=12410421

“Who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine.”


“A BP official apparently rejected advice of a subcontractor, Halliburton Inc., in preparing for a cementing job to close up the well. BP rejected Halliburton’s recommendation to use 21 “centralizers” to make sure the casing ran down the center of the well bore. Instead, BP used six centralizers. In an e-mail on April 16, a BP official involved in the decision explained: “It will take 10 hours to install them. I do not like this.”

Later that day another BPer shrugged off the risk with those 11 careless words. Penny wise, pound foolish, goes the old English proverb, and now the British corporation has been forced to begin to pay up: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100616/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gulf_oil_spill

We will all pay, in many ways, for years and decades to come. Who cares, indeed. I rage against the criminal negligence, the indifference to safety, that BP’s consistent pattern of cutting costs and maximizing profit demonstrate. According to the Center for Public Integrity, “BP account[ed] for 97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the [oil] refining industry by government safety inspectors over the past three years.” (See http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06-17-kick-ass-or-buy-gas/)

And then I turn my thoughts to how our country can move from what Antonia Juhasz so accurately names “The Tyranny of Oil” http://www.democracynow.org/2008/10/7/the_tyranny_of_oil_antonia_juhasz.

Americans tend to be individualists; we think first in terms of what we can do immediately in our  own lives. Here’s one list that’s going around Code Pink listservs lately: http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06-01-ask-umbra-on-8-things-you-can-do-to-fight-the-BP-gulf-oil-spill

And that’s all good. What’s even more needed, however, is to work together not only to mourn the dead, repair the damage done as much as humanly possible, and to seek justice for those whose livelihoods have been stolen, but to move from Big Problems to Begin the Phase Out from a fossil fuel economy. This is a political task that has been left undone for decades. It entails mustering us as citizens, not only consumers, to demand that serious governmental and corporate investment go to building the sustainable energy economy that we have talked about, but never really committed to. Great ideas have been under development at least since the 1970’s; some of them were discussed on Democracy Now on June 16, 2 months into the catastrophe: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/16/spill_roundtable

Cutting off the federal government’s contracts to buy petroleum products for the US military from BP would be a good place to start this project. Shutting down fossil-fuel-gobbling wars of choice in Iraq, Afghanistan and increasingly Pakistan make more sense than ever.

A picture’s worth a thousand words. These photos are each worth a thousand tears:


And aren’t these photos of horror worth a thousand deeds from all of us, to keep our oceans alive and to ensure that this NEVER happens again?!

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  • Kathy Greene

    Yes, it's surprising how it can feel not to have the phone ring, or anything to plug in. I lived most of a year without electricity years ago, and in many ways it was wonderful.

    I was not aware at first of how it would make me so much more connected to others.
    Sharing becomes much more natural when you can't 'hoard' food, for example.
    Another; when you can't plug in a radio or television, a friend who can play an instrument or sing becomes a great treasure. And you are more able to give someone in your presence your full attention.

    But you also become more connected to yourself; you can really hear yourself think. I could feel the change in my ability to concentrate, to be present to myself.

    My return to the city, to a house where lights, and wired sound were present in every room, was amazing. I could feel the electricity buzzing, and saw the difference in the attention of the people whose house I was visiting. They had the television on, and could not keep from looking at it while we were introduced, even tho I would be staying at their house!

    I built a wood oven from things I found and baked my own bread and pies in it, to this day something that I'm proud of, and that empowered me.

    Of course, to live in a city, and especially to work in a city it is much harder to do without the devices that we plug in. They are everywhere, and almost required in order to deal with the pace of life here. I have great admiration for those who manage to live sustainably in cities.

    It's both encouraging and discouraging to realize that most of us have been recycling and trying very hard to live sustainably for 30 or even 40 years. For a great many Americans this is not even something they are aware of.

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