The above photo could almost be beautiful, if we didn’t know what it is — a result of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This catastrophe continues to get worse and worse every second of every day, and now that it has emerged that the pipe is apparently ruptured underneath the seabed, it is likely that the gushing oil will simply continue to spew out indefinitely — for months, perhaps years — further destroying the ocean, the marshlands, the beaches, the animals that inhabit these environments, and the fishing and tourist industries of the regions affected. Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know how awful it is.
The question now is what to do about it. I am far, far from being an expert on this, but a few things seem clear. One is that, as a basic first step, offshore drilling has to be banned permanently. If this is not a wake-up call to the dangers of offshore drilling then I don’t know what is. Almost incredibly, though, we now have Republicans like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and disgraced Senator David Vitter calling for the immediate resumption of drilling. Other right-wing Republican figures such as Rand Paul and Sarah Palin, as well as “independent” billionaire Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, have actually come out in defense of the BP murderers. In the face of such an enormous and unfolding catastrophe, their stances would seem nothing short of insane. Sadly, they are not insane. Quite to the contrary, they know full well what they are doing and why. To them, corporate profits simply rank higher than any possible concern for environmental destruction, animal suffering, or lost livelihoods. Vitter and Jindal, for example, claim that they are motivated by the need to save jobs in Louisiana’s oil industry, yet seem to care very little for jobs in the fishing or tourist industries. Palin’s husband Todd Palin has actually worked for BP as a production operator. So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here....
As always, it’s all about corporate interests. Can anyone really be surprised? No, but this shows how hard it really will be to accomplish any real change in regard to oil policy, even when we see so starkly the consequences of our dependence on fossil fuels. It would be nice to think that, for example, a boycott of BP could be effective, and perhaps it is a good way to register one’s anger, but I suspect ultimately it will come to nothing. Remember how horrible the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska was (and still is to this day)? I remember hearing stories on the news of people cutting up their Exxon credit cards and boycotting Exxon, but that corporation is still going quite strong. A lot of people were angry about Shell Oil’s activities in Nigeria and its involvement in the execution of Ogoni anti-Shell activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, but none of the subsequent anti-Shell boycotts have really done anything to change things or to affect Shell’s massive profits.
As understandable and necessary as it is, boycotting only one oil company is short-sighted — those who drive cars will still have to buy their gas somewhere. All oil companies are just as bad as each other, and they’re all in cahoots, along with the Congress-people and government officials who enforce (or rather don’t enforce, as the ongoing BP mess is revealing) the regulation of the industry. President Obama initially seemed like a ray of hope with his touting of a clean energy bill and so forth, but before this BP thing he had come out in favor of off-shore drilling as a sop to the Right, and to the disappointment of many of his supporters. While Obama is clearly preferable as a president to any Republican one could currently imagine, his story is yet another demonstration of the virtual impossibility of effecting change through government, when government itself is in the back pocket of the industry causing all the damage in the first place.
So watching all these horrible pictures on the news of animals dying, of fouled beaches and marshes, while people like Jindal, Vitter, and Palin run around trying to defend big oil — well, things seem bleak to say the least. We can have no faith that even Obama will do much to change this fucked-up state of affairs. Real change will only come when enough people have made it known that they will not stand for it. It will only come when a critical mass of the people forces this country to change its energy policy, when we in a sense boycott all oil companies and change this economy from one dependent on oil to the green-energy economy that Obama pushed for as a candidate. That means there will be no quick solution to any of this, but rather an ongoing process of demonstrations, publicity, elections, more demonstrations. Thankfully there are some groups out there such as Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, and many others who have been proactive in this regard. In New Orleans, a group called the Krewe of Dead Pelicans has been organizing protests in response to the spill. More of this, much more, is needed. Or we may all end up like dead pelicans, in one way or another.