BP: Beyond Pissed
Cross-posted from my blog, because I haven’t written anything in a while.
This BP oil leak debacle has broken my heart more than a lot of events in the last decade. For example, as bad as it sounds, I was very detached from 9/11, because at the time I had never even been to New York; I may as well have been watching a movie. Same with Hurricane Katrina; back then, to me New Orleans only existed in theory. But watching this is like being kicked in the stomach. The Gulf coast is like a second home to me. I was born in Tallahassee, FL, and grew up close to it; from the time I was a baby I spent every summer on the Florida panhandle. They are not the prettiest nor the most glamorous beaches in the country (in fact, Panama City is referred to as “the redneck Riviera”) and most people treat the coastal South with the kind of disdain reserved for the most backwater, podunk, culturally and economically stunted parts of the US. On the other hand, in my eyes the Gulf coast is absolutely beautiful, and has a special place in my heart– which is why this whole event is so painful to watch.
The green is Google maps’ tracking of where oil in the water has been reported. The star is Mexico Beach, where my family would always spend a few weeks every summer. When I was growing up, we’d find tar balls on the beach all the time, but they were always small (maybe at most 2 inches in diameter) and hard like rocks. Meanwhile, I have seen some still and video footage of the tar balls pulled out of the water near Pensacola in the last couple of days.
It makes me think of:
But seriously, y’all. Pensacola is only about 130 miles from Mexico Beach. How much longer before the entire panhandle is affected? I always thought that maybe when I’m old I would find a bungalow on some deserted stretch of sand along the Gulf, where I could spend my twilight years sunbathing, listening to the waves, and avoiding cold winters. Now I have to wonder what these beaches will look like when I’m in my 70’s. In four decades’ time, perhaps through human effort and the earth’s natural method of recycling, the oceans, estuaries, and bayous will have returned to something resembling “normal”– Conversely, in 40 years this planet may be so polluted to the point where this mess looks about as serious as a grease spot in your garage.
A lot of my friends have been supporting the “boycott BP” campaigns floating around, and while their hearts are in the right place, I don’t think simply avoiding BP gas stations is going to make much of an impact, especially when every other oil company has an equally bad track record of human rights violations and environmental destruction. I would love to simply stop buying gas altogether, but even if I could feasibly get around without a car (which is very difficult to do in the South)… Everything nowadays is made with some kind of petroleum byproduct. Everything. Plastic? Good luck boycotting that. I think the real issue here isn’t the oil spilling, but the fact that our society is so heavily based around oil to begin with.
I don’t think most Americans are going to be as outraged about this for the same reasons I did not have an emotional reaction to 9/11 or Katrina… This clusterfuck is not taking place in their backyard. I can’t honestly be too surprised if most people just don’t care. But for those of us who grew up in the coastal South, it’s like someone is taking a shit on our front lawn.