6.07.2010

An American tragedy

Happier, cleaner times: Pelicans, Cedar Key, Florida, March 2009.

The birds lived a carefree, Jimmy Buffet kind of life, hanging out on the town fishing pier and living off of the bounty of the Gulf of Mexico. It was probably an easier environment for the birds than humans -- there were not a lot of job opportunities at Cedar Key.

Now, of course, everything has changed: Horrifying pictures of birds in oil here (Big Picture).

BP CEO Tony Hayward infamously and impolitically said that he "wants his life back" -- yes: Don't we all? (And what about the 11 workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon exploded?)

From media reports, it sounds like the usual capitalistic impulse to maximize short term profit potential was a contributing factor in the accident. The well was behind schedule, it was costing a lot of money, the job needed to get done, consquences be damned. Also, the oil industry has deep influence at the agencies that supposedly regulate it -- the fox watches the henhouse.

So on one hand BP is a deserved target of the public's scorn and contempt: There would be a certain poetic justice, if the company's board and key decision makers were publicly tarred and feathered (the fate of the Duke and the King in Huckleberry Finn -- Huck describes the rascals as looking like a couple of "monstrous big soldier-plumes") on some fouled Gulf Coast beach.

But the larger fault is in ourselves: It's easy to tweet about, or post on Facebook, about boycotting BP. It's even pretty easy to follow through and not purchase their products.

But would take real commitment to radically rethink energy consumption and reduce miles driven by car. How many Americans are prepared to do this? Will there be any follow through?

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