Friday, 28 January 2011

The BP Oil Spill Blame Game and a Call For United Action

Recent news reports describe an escalating blame game involving oil industry officials, government representatives and politicians over responsibility for the massive BP oil spill and its developing aftermath. The touted "top kill" failed to work and experts are now struggling for another option to solve the BP oil spill crisis. President Obama is "angry," trying to reflect public mood and maintain a semblance of control. A growing rift, already beginning to show last week, now seems to widen as immediate success at staunching the oil flow becomes more doubtful. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal fumes over resistance to dredging sand barriers, accusing federal agencies of neglect and inaction. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has all the answers, somehow knowing from his great distance just where the president and BP went wrong. No one seems to remember how little regard those formerly crying "Drill, baby, drill!" had for the safeguards they now accuse the government and oil industry of willfully neglecting.
The widening Gulf of Mexico oil disaster provides a study into how we behave in crisis, showing that we all have a lot to learn about working together. Some of us who feel not so immediately involved try to turn away: change the channel. The daily resume of formerly crystal clear waters now murky with oil overwhelms us. Day after day we experience heart wrenching sadness as rescuers try to save scores of seabirds soaked in oil, reminding us of Exxon Valdez and other offshore spills. Our minds struggle to comprehend the choking effects of raw crude embedded in already dwindling Louisiana marshlands and we find it impossible to imagine how this seemingly fragile environment might ever recover.
People immediately affected cannot turn away. Their lives are directly affected in a way impossible to escape. States all around the Gulf rim now suffer financial loss as tourists stay away. Those in the fishing industry and related industries face not only immediate financial disaster but also the loss of generational occupation through no fault of their own. An entire region, already slammed by Hurricane Katrina, now seems doomed with the loss of abundant fresh seafood, so essential to a vibrant culture and cuisine.
Even though oil contamination may be hundreds of miles from still pristine beaches, many would-be travelers are repulsed at the thought of swimming in a now polluted Gulf. And the menace moves ever closer to areas still untouched. Aerial sensors record a spreading mass of what may be sub-surface oil, while other accounts describe a glaring surface sheen in areas where water still appears clear. Oil from the massive spill is now reported entering the "loop current," and commentators speak of oil as spreading "everywhere."
As in so many fictional accounts of alien infestation, the horror insidiously spreads to consume us all. Another containment attempt, expected within the next seven days, holds limited promise of success, especially as "some" oil may continue to escape. The only real hope now depends on successful completion of relief wells that may finally ease pressure, diverting escaping oil and gas toward controlled capture. But this cannot occur before mid-August. Our minds now struggle to conceive of a once seemingly pristine Gulf filling with noxious crude, with little hope of containment for three months to come.
But we can waste no time in the "blame game" and effectively confront this crisis. Wiser heads among us know that our best successes will come when we put aside political differences, rivalries and fears to work together in every way we can. There will be plenty of time in months and years ahead to consider blame. Now is not the time to squabble over blame, as acrimony only saps our energies, splintering groups that might otherwise work successfully together in response to unfolding developments. There is sufficient responsibility to go around for now. In fact, we would all do well to take whatever responsibility we can to confront this spreading menace together.
Pursuing scapegoats only decreases our ability to work collectively in the face of crisis. Who in the oil industry or in government regulatory agencies could possibly say they were without at least some responsibility in developments leading to this disaster? Even the Obama administration, born in such tremendous hope for clean energy and renewed environmental protection, will remain tarnished by this greatest American environmental disaster well into a possible second term.
None of us watching as rusty brown fingers weave across formerly clear water can avoid feeling touched by the cloying oil. Blaming government or industry may seem temporarily satisfying, but it provides no solution for now: the oil still flows and spreads. We can only effectively meet this environmental and economic disaster by uniting our energies to work together toward containment and solution. And we can remember that, in our finest hours, we have faced crisis together before.
We can at least show support for those directly involved. We can send money to aid those facing financial disaster. We can send money to help with cleanup and containment efforts. We can send money to support volunteers who would help to protect and clear marshes and beaches, while being lodged in motels usually crowded with tourists. We can also buy seafood as long as it remains on shelves. This will at least do a little to save a threatened industry. Just by doing these simple things we can all join together in every possible way to maintain an already struggling economy while providing a volunteer army to keep oil from our shores.
Finally, we can call on President Obama and Governor Jindal to ask for volunteers and for contributions from us all to cover their expenses. While BP remains responsible for costs, their payment may come too late for either people or pelicans. We can act most effectively if we take up responsibility now, together.
(c) Copyright - Douglas Boyd Robinson. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.