As I have said, I have trouble becoming much worried about the oil spill off Louisiana. Have I suddenly become an expert oceanographer (like every other airhead television anchor)? No, not really, not much, not at all. As usual, I interpret signals from sources that I understand well to evaluate a reality that I cannot assess directly myself. Here is what I know about the current mass media, most of it at any rate:
1 It loves catastrophes. Nothing new here but worth repeating,
2 It’s sentimentally “green” in a silly, reflexive sub-Walt Disney fashion. Those who write for it and those who speak there mostly think polar bears are cuddly. They will not admit to themselves that polar bears will eat them at the first opportunity and that they shit on the pure white snow;
3 It’s imbecilically horrified by the national corporate world that feeds it and of which it is a part. It hates big corporations without a thought.
Given the three features above, I am sure that the media stay reasonably on top of an eco-catastrophe committed by a large multinational corporation. So, I look for what the media would show me if they could. If they don’t I assume it does not exist. Hence my peace of mind.
I have been in Southern Louisiana in precisely this season. It’s full of sea birds and other aquatic birds, tens of thousands, possibly millions of them. I would expect many good pictures in the press, on television, of masses of horribly soiled dead birds. I would expect long, thorough, doleful reports of the carnage on NPR. There is none. The material must not be there I conclude. The worst I have read is that about 150 sea turtles died this year instead of 50 last year. I have no idea how abnormal that it is or even if it’s abnormal. No one else can tell with those figures.
Yet, I think there will be some ugly scenes, sooner or later, at sea and on the edge of the continent, in the wetland especially that form the southern boundary of the state. I am a reformed but long-term diver (40 years) so, I will hate it. And, yes, it’s likely that hundreds, or dozens of fishermen will suffer losses. It’s squarely BP’s obligation to compensate them if it has not already done so. This oil spill is a mess but not a biggie, it seems to me. Missing info: How long does it take for Mother Nature to re-absorb, or to dissipate the petroleum goods it produced in its own bosom.
In the meantime, if we stopped drilling offshore, our standard of living would drop drastically, not by 2 or 3 %, by 20 or 30 %, at least. And “standard of living” does not only mean beer and fancy clothes. It also involves life expectancy, infant mortality, medical relief of chronic pain, education, etc.
That the BP oil leak should happen so close to New Orleans is a godsend for the Obama administration. It should allow it to contrast its energetic, intelligent, and above all, compassionate response with the Katrina response for which Pres. Bush was vilified. Accordingly, I suspect some in the White House are disappointed that the crisis is not of greater magnitude and that it creates so few human victims. Similarly, it would be a great opportunity for the Administration to undermine the whole huge enterprise of offshore drilling if the disaster were one. Yet, it’s only making weak noises so far.
There was a Federal agency in charge of making sure this kind of accident does not happen. It was the same agency that was in charge of collecting federal government royalties (income) from oil companies, including BP. Oops! Based on this particular, spectacular success of government regulation, we need more regulation, obviously. When I brush my teeth with a bristle-free brush and my mouth remains repulsive, I just brush harder!