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.

4 Comments so far

  1. ha1ku (unregistered) on June 13th, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

    Yea, this one is gonna HURT. BAD. We’re talking about the ecosystem. Fucked for every living thing that depends on it. It’s our fucking food, man!

    The government can slap fines on BP ’til they go out of business. The real problem is the cleanup and all the critters that thrive in the ocean.

  2. Mark (unregistered) on June 13th, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

    Yeah, Sarah, I know how you feel–I grew up on the Gulf, a bit further south in Sarasota, and have gone to New Orleans 2-3x/year for 23 years, have family in Tampa, etc. It’s going to be a mess for a long time.

    And, yes, boycotting BP gas stations won’t really hurt BP–they only own a few hundred stations and their gas gets mixed in with and distributed to many different branded gas stations. By boycotting their stations, your friends are really mostly hurting the local business owner.

    Here’s a great article from Rolling Stone that talks a lot about the background on how this happened; will make you so pissed-off you’ll want to punch someone:

  3. abby on June 14th, 2010 @ 9:07 am

    yeah, Mark’s right – boycotting BP stations is hurting small businesspeople much more than it’s hurting the global petroleum company. I think the latest at Krog sums up a lot of people’s opinions on the matter, too – http://tweetphoto.com/27122454

  4. Annie (unregistered) on July 7th, 2010 @ 11:07 am

    Nice post, Sarah. And you hit on something that i was thinking also – This really hits home for us, and I wonder if other parts of the country are so strongly and emotionally affected by it. I know I am – it is like a dark cloud hanging over everything this summer. Just spent the 4th on Cape San Blas and wrote on my own blog about the sinking feeling I had as I was leaving that it would never be the same when i went back.

    Thanks for sharing.

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