Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gulf oil spill

Like a lot of my friends I have been watching news coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after an offshore drilling rig blowout and fire last month. The slick is coming and there is not much anyone can do to stop it from doing what it is going to do when it reaches of hundreds of miles of Gulf shoreline. It's a place many of us know as a place to play, connect with nature, and spend our money having fun. Some of the people who are from there, know it as a place to earn a living.

Worse still, because of the nature of the underwater well and how things went wrong, it might be a couple of months before there is any end to the tragic flow of the same commodity which makes life as we know it possible, that also ends life and changes life as we knew it on the Gulf of Mexico.

Having worked and lived in Valdez Alaska the summer of 1989 it would be easy for me to say the oil company was at fault, and blame them for what happened there 21 years ago. I'd gotten to see the more-or-less pristine Prince William Sound in 1988 and I also got a look at the more-or-less devastated Sound in 1989. I would be easy for me to make now the same snap judgment I made then about Big Oil. It would be the same judgment a lot of people are making right now about what happened the Gulf last month and what is going to happen in the Gulf in the next few weeks.

The way those corporations do business will kill a bunch a wildlife, affect if not wipe out a bunch of livelihoods and cost them a few billion dollars just like it did in Alaska. And it will be written off as a cost of doing business.

However, having aged 21 years since that summer in Alaska and gained perspective in that time, it would be hypocritical of me or anyone else who uses petroleum products not to take some of the blame for what happened there and in the Gulf.

It is a fact that more could have been done to prevent and minimize the rig blowout. It's a tragedy that mankind made happen because of the way our world is built on oil and I've yet to see any assurance whatsoever that anything different will be done anytime soon to stop it from happening again.

That rig in the Gulf was there because the way we live made it necessary and profitable. It's not that far from where I live and I am one of the people who benefited from it being there. The corporation which put it there did it because they knew they could make money off me and a whole lot of people who live the way I do.

Last month I took my kids to see the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in our home state on the Gulf of Mexico (I blogged it just a couple posts down from this one if you want to read about how much fun we had there) The kids had never seen anything like that place, and they LOVED it, but because of the oil spill, they might be my age before they see it again the same way.

I know that just about everybody who's been to a Gulf beach would have no problem telling me how much fun they had there. I know that because I am one of those people. But I wonder how many of those people thought about those same beaches when they spent money to put gasoline they could afford in the car they drove to get there.

That wildlife refuge is a place that was set aside for nature because people tried to do the right thing. Now it's a place will probably be brownish-black next time I see it because people still haven't done the right thing when it comes to Big Oil.