Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oil Slick

Photo courtesy Associated Press.

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world
is also a confession of character.

Several of my friends have asked me recently what my reaction is to the Gulf Oil Spill, and my inclination is always to answer: "Visceral."

My anger towards the responsible parties, my bleeding heart that cracks open at the sight of every bird that cannot fly or fisherman who cannot make his wage, and my now-personal (however small) investment in the Gulf coast after contributing my own sweat and tears (and a tiny bit of blood after banging my thumbs numerous times putting up siding) are all palpable sensations for me.

And yes: I have looked into volunteering. But all of the literature I've so far come across has stressed two major things:
1. The bulk of the work that currently needs to be done (outside of plugging the f*&%ing leak in the first place) has to be handled by Haz-Mat or other professional clean-up teams.
2. The burden of the presence of volunteers in the coastal area, at the present time, would outweigh the benefits. This means a drain on already-taxed local resources, a surge of tourists that cannot be accommodated, and a presence of bodies with little to do but wait out the situation.

So, no, I will not be flying back to Louisiana just yet.

But the more I read, the more I discover about BP, the more I am convinced of the notion that radical change must be enacted from within. Attempting to think too far outside the box denies the current system, and all of its far-reaching complications. People are quick to dismantle big business, to crucify the responsible parties (as well they should) and to point to our gluttony of oil. But, the thing is, it goes beyond that. We, as all progressive countries, have become dependent on a limited resource whose readily accessible reserves have dried up thus pushing us to pursue trickier measures to gain access. And by "trickier," I am referring both to the physical practice of said pursuance as well as the political/ethical/social landscape of such measures.

It is true that we need to seek alternative fuel sources. But, more than that, an even more radical viewpoint needs to be established: besides fuel, we need a replacement for petroleum products. Everything you own, from the computer you're reading this blog on right now to the Lean Cuisine you might eat for lunch, is derived, at least in part, from a petroleum product. Our dependence on these reserves has gone beyond mere need to frantic existential reliance.

I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else. I don't live on an ashram, eating food that I cultivated myself out of earth I myself tilled with all-natural tools. I live in a city, I recycle when bins are readily available, and I eat a lot of Lean Cuisines. I'm just as much a part of The System as anyone else.

The guilt, however, spurns me not towards making clothes out of the hairballs I comb off of my cats, but towards a general thoughtfulness of where we are at this space in time. I am conscious of our gluttony as a nation, of our consistent and horrendous urges to spend disgusting amounts of money on luxury products. But I am also conscious of our dependence on these finite sources for everyday objects as well. Pens. Napkins. Cup holders.

Hell, even recycled materials have to be processed in some plant SOMEWHERE. And I guarantee you, that plant runs on electricity. Which runs on....finite fuel sources.

It never ends, this chicken-or-the-egg philosophy of environmentalism.

So, to answer everyone's questions, I don't have a particular standpoint on the Gulf oil spill. I have seventeen of them. And they rotate. The problem, much like the perfect storm that was Hurricane Katrina, is so manifold that any distinct conclusion that anyone is trying to draw will undoubtedly be uninformed, unfeasible, or both.

In the meantime, I am just saddened and enraged and perplexed by the continuance of the situation. And that's about all I can say at this point in time.

No comments: