Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How can we forget? Exxon Valdez and the Kirby Barge

"​The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting​," wrote Milan Kundera.  

Many people remain blind to or unaware of the power that must be challenged if we are going to revolutionize our economic and political systems to align their interests with justice and ecological integrity.  This is due partly because of a massive disinformation campaign by corporate and political elites, and partly because everything we do--heating our homes or transporting ourselves to work--is inextricably bound to these power structures that feed us toxic and dirty energy.  If this energy is in everything, we do not have a choice.  If we do not have a choice, we can slowly become blind to alternatives.    

It is sadly fitting that on the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska, we are dealing with another ship-caused oil spill,  this time in Houston and Galveston after a barge owned by Kirby Inland Marine Co. leaked bunker fuel into the Gulf of Mexico.  While the size of the spill is sixty times smaller than Exxon Valdez spill (11 million gallons from the Valdez vs 170,000 gallons from the barge), the spill could not have come at a worse time for the birds that are migrating to and from the area.  (News just in: We are also dealing with another oil spill in Lake Michigan.  The culprit, BP.)

Just when we thought that we learned lessons from Exxon Valdez, that the BP Deepwater Horizon spill was fading into distant memory, just when politicians (and some scientists, and, maybe even the President) delusionally support of the Keystone XL pipeline by saying that its ecological effects are minimal or could be mitigated, we are presented with not one, but two oil spills.  Perhaps this is a good thing.  Perhaps 

We need to use these events to keep ourselves and the masses from forgetting, from losing focus on the struggles that lie in every next step.  We need to use these events to (re)orient ourselves to strategically challenge and fight the culprits of socioecological havoc and injustice of all kinds.  

We cannot forget that challenging big oil means confronting hegemonic power.  We must use these events, as Naomi Klein says, to make the increasingly popular calls for fundamental and systemic reform powerful.    

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