Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 - The Summer of Sludge

Above: The landscape of cheap consumer goods and unfettered capitalism.

After our vacation to Puerto Rico, it felt like the summer was already over; after all, we knew we wouldn't have many opportunities over these warm months for much fun or relaxation. Of course, I shouldn’t bitch; after all, like many, we’re also scraping-by week-to-week and month-to-month for rent, utilities, and to meet the expenses of sustaining this urban existence.

Fortunately, we’re working (many aren’t): I’m still at the New School and have also been teaching two ESL classes a day for five days a week in Times Square. Teaching has definitely become a gratifying and transformative occupation for me. Subsequently, this summer, has also become my season for change, in which I’ve decided it’s high-time to “sober-up.” For the past two months, I’ve not sipped a drop of drink, nor inhaled a puff of plant. This has been the longest I’ve gone without these “vices” since graduating High School back in 1997. Yep, I’m “getting clean,” time to cease the daily damage I do to my brain and body with toxins.

To tame the proverbial “monkey on my back,” I’ve been running every other day, exercising regularly, eating healthier, and consuming a large dose of reading. Admittedly, this hasn’t been easy, there have definitely been moments of near “relapse,” when I wrestle with that old insatiable urge to partake of the pleasures I previously partook. But I stay strong. I maintain.

Of course this summer of 2010 has been a fitting moment to acknowledge, accept, and overcome my own addictions. After all, it’s been rather difficult to even think about really having a good time, when considering the unavoidable damage being done to the planet from our larger, more aggressive, collective addictions.

Yes this summer will mostly be remembered for the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which started with an explosion on April 20th on the Deep Water Horizon offshore oil rig. Accordingly, each subsequent day of news coverage would stream live video footage of a ruptured pipe, 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, frustratingly going glug, glug, glug, glug, while the ocean around it helplessly became more and more polluted.

At this time, BP has finally managed to put a “working” cap on the gushing well and appears to be very close to having a “relief well” established. Nevertheless, it has been very aggravating to see how inept, slow, and powerless this industry is at preventing, stopping, and cleaning-up an industrial malfunction of this magnitude. It took months to stop the gusher and will take years to return the Gulf to it’s natural condition. Of course, this is an oxymoron; because the sludge is here to stay.

Oil companies have had the technology to “drill baby drill,” at deeper depths and more dangerous locations. However, they apparently never invented nor experimented with the necessary mechanisms to stop nor clean-up such accidents. Dumb.

Week after week, the news only offered-up new techniques and gizmos to stop the crisis. However, it was obvious that BP had (like any good addict) lost control and was just pulling-out any sorry-ass excuse they could to “fix this.” One could almost imagine some team of scientists tirelessly working overnight somewhere at a chalk board trying to come-up with new whacky ways to stop this disaster. My biggest complaint is that there was no contingency plan established in the first place and that no matter how much oversight goes into future offshore drilling, it will never be “worth the risk.”

Yes, the frustration shall continue. And why not? After all, we are (as President Bush said during his Administration) “addicted to oil.” And the oil industry is like the junky, still trying to inject a needle into an infected arm, trying to drill deeper and deeper, all while the mess it created is not even close to being cleaned-up.

President Obama rightfully demanded a six-month moratorium on “deepwater” oil drilling so as to investigate “what went wrong” and to ensure appropriate regulations are put into place to prevent a disaster like this from ever happening again. However, federal judge, Martin Feldman, overturned the moratorium claiming, we cannot conclude that "because one rig failed . . . all companies and rigs drilling new wells at over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger." He’s right; however, why risk it? Why gamble away the environment?

Stupid question.

We always have and we will continue to do as we’ve always done -sacrifice our future well-being for quick immediate profits. The reason Judge Feldman overturned the moratorium is because he has had stock in big oil and, likely, still benefits from this super industry. Then again, don’t we all? After all, where do you think all the cheap crap we purchase comes from? ...Oil. That’s right, we’re the ones using cars, plastic bags, toys, etc. etc. The oil industry is our “pusher man” and we’re too wrapped-up in this habit to ever break it. The oil industry is entangled in almost every aspect of our political and economic life. We cannot beat this “addiction” until we have a new one to off-set our insatiable appetite for our energy “high.”

Rachel Maddow brought-up some excellent points on her July 23rd show. Maddow said, “The oil industry is the most profitable industry in all of human enterprise and as such it is the most influential.” Maddow then offered-up some startling figures to consider to see the oil companies’ influence on our lives. For instance, “Even if you look at the large costs BP has incurred so far in the gulf, $4 billion (as of last week), this amount is still less than a 3rd of BP’s profits from last year alone.” Moreover, “If you look at all the oil in the gulf, which is an estimated 184 million gallons, this amount only represents a quarter of how much oil is consumed in American in one day.” ...One day?! Ouch!

These are certainly grim, startling, and sobering figures that make me want to read more Chris Hedges columns (like this one) and sadly, have a stiff drink while watching (to quote Jim Morrison) "the whole shit house go up in flames."

But I won’t, because I refuse to believe this fight is over yet.

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