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Oil Spill?

June 15, 2010

This morning’s New York Times headline reads, “Efforts to Repel Gulf Spill Are Described as Chaotic.”  Spill?  Are we still calling the BP oil spewing into the Gulf a “spill?”  Hey, when I “spill” my coffee on my tablecloth, I sponge it up with a few dabs.  When I “spill” my lemonade on my shirt, the amount of lemonade is limited, and I can launder my shirt.  What we see going into the Gulf and on to the marshes, beaches, and wetlands just doesn’t look like a “spill” to me.  We’re talking “gusher” of once safely sequestered carbon spewing into the ocean and onto land endangering every living thing in the way.

With so much focus on the oil spewing into the Gulf, few have noticed the New Jersey news that radio active, cancer causing tritium —  that leaked from the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant a few years ago —  is making its way toward an aquifer that provides drinking water to a large portion of New Jersey residents.

When I rode my bike across the United States on Adventure Cycling’s TransAmerica bike route back in 1997, I heard about the impact of mining on water sheds,  poisoning drinking water.  A few years ago I stayed with friends in Nebraska on a farm.  “Don’t drink the water.”  Why?  The heavy use of fertilizers had poisoned the water shed.  Last year, I visited friends in Mount Pleasant, MI.  They put sugar in the water “so you don’t notice the bad taste.”  I passed on drinking it!  The chemical corporations out there had been pumping toxic waste into the ground for years.  “Out of sight; out of mind” was the motto, I guess.  On the other hand, that toxic waste came right back to everyone in the vicinity in their mealtime water glasses.

What I make of these “spills” is that our ways of transporting, warming, and feeding ourselves works well in the short term — for a century or two —  and threatens our biosphere in the long run.  We’re a little part of that biosphere and depend on it for our lives.  Can you imagine our lives if the biosphere dies?  If not, try reading a novel, e.g. The Road.  You’ll get a picture of what a dead biosphere might do to us.

If we want our species to thrive and survive into the 22nd Century, we probably have to stop treating our oceans like sewers, and we have to stop treating our soil like dirt.  Can we awaken to our proper place and role in the biosphere, so that we stop killing it and find a way to become a contributing part of it?

Tonight President Obama is scheduled to address the nation on the topic of the Gulf Oil “Spill” (sic).  That Gulf Oil Gusher should be a wake up call to the White House and Congress to get moving on creating a sustainable energy system by 2030 (see the Scientific American, November 2009, to learn how that can be done).  I hope they cast off the “cap and trade” approach and shift their support to a real bipartisan and potentially effective bill, The CLEAR Act (Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal).  Senators Cantwell (D-WA) and Collins (R-ME) introduced it.  They’re leading the way into the 21st Century.

2 Comments
  1. Paul Roden permalink
    June 15, 2010 2:16 pm

    I agree, carbon trading and carbon caps are not enough. Carbon tax, goals with teeth, carbon capture and sequestration and an “Apollo like” national campaign to retool our manufacturing, infrastructure and transportation systems for solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, small scale hydroelectric, tidal, conservation, mass transit, electric cars, buses trucks and hybrids needs to be conducted. A Carbon Race to zero or neutral admissions with no petroleum or natural gas imports. It will improve our exports, eliminate unemployment, retool our factories in this country, and reduce the need for military intervention for oil and protection of oil and natural gas imports. We can improve our economy, cut green house gas emissions and eliminate our dependency on foreign oil. No more blood for oil! We need green jobs in this country to support a green, sustainable economy.

  2. Ellen N. Duell permalink
    June 15, 2010 2:49 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly. “Gusher”, not “spill”.

    And a little thing, but to me, important: your spell-check did not catch something–in your last sentence, the contraction for “they are” should have been spelled “they’re”–not “their”. Pronounced clearly, these two don’t even sound exactly alike. “They-re” should sound like “they-er”, not like “there”.

    First mistake I ever saw in your writing! –Ellen (yes, a former teacher, ho ho)

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