Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Age of Disasters

An enormous oil spill off the coast of Louisiana (yes another one) seems to have occurred over the weekend. Light patches of “weathered oil” have appeared in the bays around Grande Isle. Reports of a petrochemical sheen upwards of 100 miles long have also been described in the Gulf waters around the “Birdfoot,” the Mississippi River’s terminus where the mighty river splits into three stems, the Southwest Pass, Pass A Loutre, and South Pass.

According to the Times Picayune, the Coast Guard is “investigating that as a separate incident” from the mysterious oily pollution floating around Grande Isle. So we have perhaps two spills of unknown quantities, large enough however to force officials to mobilize miles of booms and other materials in a frantic effort to try to contain the damage?

As of this writing the source(s) of oil are unknown, but some Coast Guard officials have speculated that the sheen offshore may have been caused by flooding and dredging far up the Mississippi River watershed, carrying toxic pollutants mixed with sediment out the river’s mouth. It’s an interesting theory that stems from a sad fact; the once majestic waterway that some call “America’s sewer” is now so horribly fouled as to produce oil spills as though they were seasonal regularities, vomited up with the March equinox in some kind of natural cycle like snow melt. Oil film, heavy metals, plastic particulates, pesticides, nitrates, they all flow down the Mississippi when their moon rises, just like the salmon used to run in now mostly dead streams of other great American rivers.

The source of oil floating around Grande Isle is rumored to have come up from a well that is being plugged. Sound familiar? If you don’t read or hear about it in the news, besides here, don’t be surprised. After BP’s oil-pocalypse anything less than a rig the size of the Empire State Building going up in thousand foot tall flames is probably not going to be green lighted for “all the news that’s fit to print.” Without a New Jersey-sized oil slick it’s unlikely the national media will pay attention. What does this say about us, about the world we’ve created?

This routinization and normalization of disaster is magnified now with the nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Diani plants, nightmarish events that have overshadowed any disasters of less than earth shattering proportions. These are strange days we live in when nothing less than a truly “bad star” will do: appropriately the word disaster originates from a Greek term literally meaning “bad star,” a solar object that has died. Think about it. That’s as big an event in the universe as there can really be. A nuclear reactor is about the closest thing humans have been able to create approaching a star on earth. By comparison it would now seem that oil spills which don’t gush 80,000 barrels a day for several months are unlit flecks of space dust floating invisible across the void – they might as well not exist.

The latest oil spills in the Gulf are only one example of dozens of real time disasters you probably won’t hear about. Somewhere else on earth something enormously risky is finally failing, and hundreds or thousands will die as a result. They may be dying suddenly in flames, under water or mud or rubble, or slowly and excruciatingly from toxins.

Reflecting on this seeming proliferation of bad stars, one veteran journalist who wrote extensively about the Macondo Well blowout of last year remarked a few days ago: “Here’s the simple fact: We are living in an age of disasters [….] We have environmental disasters that can lead to technological disasters (Japan) and technological disasters that can lead to environmental disasters (Deepwater Horizon).”

Indeed we are living in an age of disasters, characterized by sublimely violent and precautionary failures of technoscientific progress. It’s hard for me to decide what’s worse, the mega-catastrophes that dominate our attention for their sheer earth-shattering effects and global reverberations, like Fukushima, or the little disasters that now pass mostly unheard of, except to those who perish in their oblivion.

DARWIN BOND-GRAHAM is a sociologist who splits his time between New Orleans, Albuquerque, and Navarro, CA. He can be reached at: darwin@riseup.net

 

More articles by:

Darwin Bond-Graham is a sociologist and investigative journalist. He is a contributing editor to Counterpunch. His writing appears in the East Bay Express, Village Voice, LA Weekly and other newspapers. He blogs about the political economy of California at http://darwinbondgraham.wordpress.com/

May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abyss, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail