Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pigs, All Of Us

(via RBC) Seems there's a scenario going around in which the BP leak is actually a heck of a lot more serious:
All the actions and few tid bits of information all lead to one inescapable conclusion. The well pipes below the sea floor are broken and leaking.... To those of us outside the real inside loop, yet still fairly knowledgeable, [the failure of Top Kill] was a major confirmation of what many feared. That the system below the sea floor has serious failures of varying magnitude in the complicated chain, and it is breaking down and it will continue to.
I’ve been thinking lately about our collective response to the gulf crisis. Specifically, what has worried me is the degree to which this is obviously such a catastrophic event, yet we seem somewhat cavalier about it. It is as if we have struggled for so long on the front lines of the environmental wars that a sort of apathy has sunk in. For decades conservatism has fought tooth and nail for the view that private property absolutism and growth, no matter how greedy or cost-externalizing, is a net gain for society.

Even today, after the issue seemed wholly settled in the mid 00’s, after the successive IPCC reports, global warming is still doubted in polite company. After climategate, supposedly serious people were asking whether it proved once and for all that it was all a big hoax. Leader of this pack of absurdity, Rush Limbaugh, said shortly after the gulf leak started,
The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there. It’s natural. It’s as natural as the ocean water is.

Look at what is happening out there! It isn’t at all out of the realm of possibility that this turns out to be true, that the pipes below the sea floor may indeed be broken. And were that to be the case, even half the oil from an uncontained Macondo Prospect would be 25 million barrels. The fact that we even considered allowing this to happen at all is unbelievable. And we still are! Their livelihoods drowned in crude, people in the gulf are arguing that we get right back to work. I guess one could argue the damage is done. What the hell is wrong with us?

Have we become so wretched and apathetic towards the future that an ecological nightmare of this magnitude seems to summon in us only the most timid reflections on where we have gone wrong? Or have the ideological stakes somehow been raised so high that individual thought has withered on the vine, tribalism of thought solidifying before an endlessly more relative and post-modern world?

Are we really ready for this? Has our brief history prepared us to take the care that is needed when the real threat of global catastrophe, political and economic collapse – the extinction of civilization – comes not from something so simple and philosophically targetable as war or corruption, but instead from the hubris of negligence.  There is no question that we could reverse course immediately - iron-fisted regulation would guarantee it. 

We have agreed to overcome so much – race, gender, human rights – the idea that we need look after and care for fellow man. We have enshrined it at the highest levels of law and government. We have learned so much about the world, technology why we do what we do, in such a short period of time. But now this unprecedented blossoming of human utility is now threatening to wash everything away, and we can’t bear to face it. We are being asked to put the brakes on the one thing that has driven us so far so fast.

Can ideology be expected to keep up? Part of what we have sacrificed to this machine of progress has been the dulling of the senses – the distancing, packaging, commodifying of existence en mass. If progress is the modern religion, then progress has become the opiate of the people. And it is from within this blankified state that we are expected to rise and transcend. How can we, from within progress, step out from it and see it for what it is. The media churns out the most grisly images of catastrophe, and yet we muster little more than a shrug. Back to business.

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