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Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Catastrophe in the Gulf

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 7:36 pm

The first thing that struck me were the reports released by “officials” just days after the event (maybe hours… I don’t remember)… that it wasn’t that bad… the release of oil was minimal. This was a perfect example of just taking a second to stop… and think about things in a real common sense way! As the Bush administration kept beating the drum to invade Iraq… every one of their claims was refuted if you took the time to look for it. Everything they put forth as “evidence” was either disproved or questionable… everything. When Colin Powell gave his presentation to the U.N., I fully expected the headlines the next day to point out the obvious weaknesses in the administration’s case (and papers in every other nation did). I remembered seeing footage of from the Cuban Missile Crisis where JFK pointed directly to satellite images of actual launch sites under construction and tubes used to transport missiles. Powell’s little show of tiny vials that “could” and odd-ball trailers that “might”… fell FAR short of that standard and I was STUNNED the next day when the U.S. headlines trumpeted an air~tight case beyond a shadow of a doubt. This stuff isn’t hard to figure out… you just have to do a little work beyond popping bits news in your mouth like Chicken McNuggets.

So when these initial reports indicated that the spill wasn’t so bad, years of questioning assumptions lead me to observe that… one of the largest oil platforms in the world… had just exploded… AND SANK… into the Gulf of Mexico!!! It seemed pretty unlikely that this was going to turn out as optimistically as we were being lead to believe, and indeed that initial underestimation and the continued mishandling of oil-flow data became as big a story as the devastation of the catastrophe itself. I have to call it a catastrophe… I can’t bring myself to call it a “spill”. A “spill” is by definition an accident and on several levels… this was anything but an accident. British Petroleum’s and Halliburton’s irresponsibility lead directly to this cataclysmic event, but so did our nation’s rapacious thirst for oil! It’s easy to blame BP or Halliburton… and they both did plenty that was wrong, but the truth is… that oil production is a dirty, dangerous business that is doing nothing but giving us… ME… what I want… the convenience and comfort of an average, ordinary, middle-class American life! Peel back the onion of oil in our society… it is in EVERYTHING that has to be moved. Unless you live in a mud hut out in the middle of no where and don’t buy anything… the oil is yours… and so is the “spill”!

So I decided to make a small change and it wasn’t even the devastation of the spill that made me decide to do it. As bad as the oil oozing all over the Gulf was… anybody who had been paying attention to the oil industry knew that while a quantity of oil this large being introduced into the environment was pretty dramatic… this same amount of oil was pretty much being dumped in aggregate by the industry every, single day in quantities and places that just couldn’t capture our attention. As the lies and the oil about this particular event kept spreading, I was sickened by the devastation to wildlife, ocean and shore; government and industry’s response; and our own reaction of just not paying attention to this stuff until it’s on OUR shore… but none of that was what spurred me to act! It was the advertising. I was in junior high when the first OPEC oil shock happened in 1973 and I remember all the headlines talking about “solar-this” and “wind-that”… and what had we done in the intervening 40 years?… just kept consuming like there was no tomorrow… built SUVs… invaded Iraq. Where were the wind turbines? Where was all the solar power?

This time around… when I started seeing all the commercials… by all the companies who hadn’t done a goddamned thing when we had the opportunity 40 years ago to embark upon a “put the man on the moon” effort to get off of fossil fuels… talking about “wind… solar… green…”, I got pissed off! My friends challenge still rang in my ears… “What are YOU doing about it?”… I couldn’t take it anymore! It was a small thing and I put myself down for it’s softness when I first started doing it, but it was something… I vowed to not take my car for anything within a 5 mile radius of my house! I put my laundry in a big backpack… and rode my mountain bike down to the laundromat. I walked a couple of miles to the little movie theater down town. Groceries?… walked with reusable handle bags… or in the backpack on the bike. It felt good to get out and exercise. Things catch your interest on foot or on a bike… that you normally drive right by. I found myself stopping in little local shops and trying restaurants in town I’d never considered. I listened to podcasts and my whole quality of life started to improve. It pried me away from all the difficult political, economic and world events that I was addicted to online!

And even though it felt like a very small sacrifice to make… almost a joke… at some point I thought to myself… “What if everyone else did it?” What would the world… our sense of community… our waistlines… our pocket books… what would everything look like if everyone… rode or walked within a five mile radius of their house?

I’m not sure exactly where this is going to go…

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 12:21 am

…BUT… the world sure seems pretty strange today, doesn’t it?

I had been feeling pretty hopeless about things in America for quite a while.  It seemed like our response to 9/11… getting bogged down in a decade long debacle that wasted lives and resources was a disaster.  There was a lot of debate about that, but then the financial meltdown came along in 2007 and after a while… I’ll bet just about anybody had to wonder if there weren’t better things we could have done in America with the $$Trillion we spent invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq.

The debate over the Health Care bill and the Wall St. bailout really laid bare the degree to which powerful industries leveraged influence and access in Washington DC to drive the debate and get the results that were best for their bottom line… regardless of what was best for the country as a whole.  All these machinations used to be done behind the scenes, but now were done right out in the open.  Wall St. gets bailed out… the economy doesn’t recover… unemployment becomes systemic… and a year later… bonuses in the financial sector… set records!

All of the things we’ve ignored for decades about the shrinking middle class… about jobs being shipped over-seas… were brought into sharper focus by the meltdown.  Before there were always enough scraps falling down off the table above where the big guys were dividing the really important parts of the pie… to keep us from asking too many questions or complaining too loudly.  As long as we could afford our latte, drive our SUV and buy the latest Chinese-made thing from the big-box store… there wasn’t too much to complain about.

Something is out of whack.  Something is broken.  I was watching all this happen… and deeply despairing.  Nobody seemed to care.  We had become a giant global empire, and for the last decade or so… I could see no future but the one that befell every empire that had come before… none of them were around any more.  I complained about the state of affairs and assigned the blame and annoyed my friends.  Little by little… even though I couldn’t imagine what it could be… I realized that I had to start looking around for a solution.  Wallowing around in the problem was killing me.

It started out with small things… I read “Three Cups of Tea“, and it was the first thing I’d ever encountered that gave me any hope of a difference being made in the Middle East / South Asia.  I dreamt of a less military, more humanitarian foreign policy and vowed to get involved. I contacted them volunteering to fundraise in my county… and haven’t done anything since.  The Coffee Party came about and was the only sane alternative to the dysfunction our political system had devolved into for decades and Ivowed to get involved… went to one meeting… and haven’t done anything since.

I don’t feel like a typical American in the sense that I am seeing the problems we face pretty clearly and though many friends call it “complaining”… I don’t see it as a small thing to try to raise awareness about the diminishment of our representation in our national government and our ability to participate on a level playing field in our economy! But one fed up friend got tired of me pointing out how little everyone else cared and challenged me to put up… or shut up! “What are YOU doing about it?”, she asked… and the honest answer was…not as much as I’d like.

Then came the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.