FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Waiting on the Blob

by DAVID UNDERHILL

Mobile, Alabama.

Dangers of unknown size and character send you ricocheting between complacency and alarmist panic. If attempts succeed to shut the leaking oil well’s valve, or if the magical dome manages to contain the spew on the seafloor, then the life of the waters and the shores will be largely spared, and the greatest tragedy of the BP blowout will be the eleven lives lost on the burned, sunken rig. But if the crude geyser continues erupting for months—apparently a genuine possibility—then consequences could follow that are literally beyond comprehension.

We stand near the mouth of Mobile Bay. Its shores are fringed with marshes, and from its head spreads the Mobile River delta, in the USA second only to the Mississippi delta in extent and in vitality as an incubator of marine life. What happens to that life if the oil gushes for months and if winds and currents drive it into the bay and up into the delta? Perhaps a wall of multiple booms across the mouth of the bay could stop this. But wouldn’t those booms also stop the ships that are the life of the waterfront in Mobile, one of America’s top ten ports by cargo volume?

If circumstances force a choice, what is the rational and fair principle by which to decide whether to save the marine life and the livelihoods that depend on it or to save the commerce of the port and the livelihoods that depend on it? No such principle is apparent. The decision would likely come from an unruly and bitter contention among interest groups, all of which foresee ruin for themselves if they lose this showdown.

Short of such an environmental and social calamity, it’s much easier to decide who should do whatever cleanup and recovery proves possible whenever the oil arrives here in whatever amounts. All in attendance today could not have gotten here without using in some form the petroleum products whose production mishap now threatens us all. But we are not all equally complicit in this mishap. For most of us these products are an inescapable daily feature of the society we inhabit. For a few of us they are the source of a paycheck that supports a family, with little leftover at the end of the month. And for even fewer, these products are a source of great wealth, luxury, and power from owning and controlling the global petrochemical companies. These same folks, or their families and associates, also tend to own and control the companies that rush in to seize the recovery contracts when calamities occur. Disaster capitalism it has been called. Such buzzards seeking road kill to scavenge are not needed or welcome here.

Instead, some people will volunteer to help. Others should be hired. Many in this vicinity lost jobs and homes to hurricane Katrina that have still not been restored. They have skills and equipment suitable for recovery work offshore and on. On the streets of Mobile and other nearby cities are thousands of the unemployed who should be hired. And they should all be paid by the reckless operators and owners who caused this crisis but who mostly live in safely distant places.

And after the runaway well is plugged and the restorative work is underway, the lessons learned must be implemented. During the Cold War, when mutual nuclear annihilation by the United States and the Soviet Union loomed as an instant menace, movies appeared expressing this anxiety. They had titles like The Thing That Ate the Bronx and The Blob.

But humanity looked at the rubble of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and realized that just because you’re capable of doing something does not mean you should or must do it. So no nuclear weapons have been used since then, and if this lesson holds, none ever will be used.

Technology has now spread our capacity for ruin to many other realms. The maps of the spreading oil slick in our news today look remarkably like that ravenous blob from the Cold War movies. But we don’t have to succumb to it, just as we don’t have to nuke ourselves if we decide not to.

The oil pouring from the well is like ink writing a lesson on the surface of the waters that we must learn. We must not do things simply because we’re technologically capable of them—at least until they go disastrously wrong. We must find other ways of providing the order and energy necessary for our lives. That’s what Mother Earth or Father God or Nature is trying to tell us by this approaching menace.

Use whatever name you prefer for this higher, incomprehensible power. But recognize and adopt the lesson it is trying to teach—before it gets fed up and issues us a final, flunking, terminal F.

DAVID UNDERHILL lives in Mobile, Alabama, where he is a Sierra Club member and occasional CounterPunch contributor. His email address is drunderhill@yahoo.com

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:

DAVID UNDERHILL lives in Mobile, Alabama. He can be reached at drunderhill@yahoo.com

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail