Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One year after the spill, who can we trust?

I pray for Earth. 

On this one year anniversary of the BP-Macondo well blowout, which was the largest oil spill in US history, and if I recall correctly the largest marine oil spill ever, I have been trying to think about what has transpired over the year. As is always the case, the memory of such disasters is always short-lived for those not directly affected by the disaster - how long do we remember those killed ruthlessly through acts of violence in the Middle East? How long do we remember the woman raped here in Ann Arbor? In this world of constant "progress" and constant stimulation and excitement for the next, it is easy to quickly move on to the next thing. It is difficult to think about the past. What ends up happening, however, is that the past repeats itself. It is almost as if as a society, we have a collective cultural amnesia of sorts, even though we're better than ever before at documenting and recording what transpires on this Earth. We have satellites and cameras on cell phones and video recorders and Twitter and instant messaging. But does the constancy of all of this information obscure what it is we are doing to ourselves and the planet? It seems so. Boy, when those videos of the oil gushing through the well head were broadcast on TV, I thought, "THIS IS IT!"
As much as I was heartbroken by what happened, I felt this optimism of something big happening..something good...something positive. The public and myself, complicit in ecological degradation, would realise the risks of our individual and collective behaviours, and would make sure those risks would not be taken ever again...wrong.

Although the Minerals Management Service has been restructured so that the department issuing permits for drilling is different than the department receiving the revenues from issuing those permits, we have congresspeople like Doc Hastings saying, "Drilling is safe." As someone who isn't involved in the decision-making going on, I can still safely say that this is an overtly false statement. The risks of undertaking such drilling are almost too difficult to calculate. And, just like Weitzman's fat tails and dismal theorem, if the risks of calamity are adequately factored into risk assessments, we would realise that it is just too risky to do something like drill in deep oceans. Yet, many like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal have said that the permit granting process should be quickened up. It is not surprising that many people that "represent" us in Congress are actually supported by groups like the American Petroleum Institute. How can we trust agencies and bureaus whose guidelines are written by those in industry?

My mom told me the other day, "Darshan, if those in government really cared about people, the people, a lot of problems that exist today just wouldn't exist. Now do you understand why your dad doesn't vote?" My parents are amazing and prescient and keen.

Here are things that you can read and catch up on, if you are interested...

Nil, Baby, Nil: Congress Fails To Pass A Single Oil Spill Law 

One Year Later, Congress and Industry Do Nothing to Make Drilling Safer 

Gulf Residents: Please Take our Dolphins and Turtles Away 

Ken Feinberg, BP Not Independent According To Judge 

BP spill: Life in Gulf of Mexico one year on

BP oil spill: The environmental impact one year on


  1. I thought the exact same thing as I watched warnings of nuclear disaster in Japan following last month's earthquake. I fear we will forget all too soon how dangerous these supposedly vital activities are. Have you written any blogs on nuclear energy? I'd like to know your thoughts in that regard.

  2. Amanda,

    Wonderful to hear from you. I haven't written much about nuclear energy specifically; I will do that soon. Thank you for the suggestion and your thoughts. Also, if you'd like, you can write about your thoughts on the issue as a guest blogger.

    I have written a little bit about the issue of depleted uranium used as munitions in Iraq, in a short series on War and the Environment. You can check it out here: