Friday, May 28, 2010

The Orange Alligator (5)

My dear hairdresser, Marsha, is headed for a cruise in the Bahamas. She had luscious streaks of pink layered into to her auburn-hennaed hair. She smiled when I complimented her. I have to be careful in swimming pools, she said. The dye can leak into the water and make pink streaks.

Fractal flash: a sort of "Perils of Pauline" theme-and-variation of the psychedelic orange-brown sludge now swirling across a hundred miles of the Louisiana coastline. A couple of days ago, NBC news commentator Brian Williams--yes, the gorgeous Brian, never an alarmist--declared that there is enough oil in this particular reserve to continue gushing throughout our lifetimes. A chilling thought. Sludge now penetrating the marshes is coating everything. Pelicans in Barataria Bay are hobbling around unable to fly. Six months ago, these pelicans had been taken off the endangered species list.

Right now all eyes are glued on operation "Top Kill," in which specially prepared mud is being force-fed into the well to push back on the oil. It can succeed only if the strong pressure of the oil spewing out of the opening can be overwhelmed by an even greater counter-pressure of mud that is being pushed in to clog up the pipe--without busting the broken pipe any more, which of course would make everything much worse. Then the opening must be capped with cement. The technique has been used on land as a plugging technique, but never tried miles beneath the sea.

Twice in the same day this week I got the I Ching hecagram of Calculated Waiting (5). "You may be facing some kind of threat...that could greatly affect you. If you worry about will waste valuable energy through agitation. Do not become agitated by your sense of an impending problem...Destiny is at work here, so nourish one another with cheerfulness and reassurance instead."

It's easier said than done. I want to inhabit this reassuring and cheerful place, but the truth is, a lot of the time I'm freaked. My state is closer to the Two of Swords Tarot card I just pulled a few minutes ago: "Fear and uncertainty about the future add to the sensation of imbalance and insecurity. Blocked emotions are causing you to feel tense and out of sorts."

How long can the "clean-up" work go on, especially with the oil overwhelming the water non-stop? Unrefined crude oil, it turns out, contains high levels of lead, benzene, mercury, and cadmium, all highly toxic substances. Toxic fumes will soon spread for hundreds of miles and make people sick, which has already started to happen. Ultimately nobody will be able to live or work near this. The whole Gulf coast could soon become a dead zone if the oil can't be contained soon. "Did they manage to plug up the hole yet, daddy?" Malia asked her father this morning, while he was in the bathroom shaving.

BP had been warned about the risks of deep-water drilling in the Gulf, in a May 2000 environmental analysis, according to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. The report advised that "a deep-water blowout of this magnitude in the US Gulf of Mexico could easily turn out to be a potential show stopper." It seems, however, that the Department of Minerals Management Service (MMS) removed those caveats in the final report, just as they also deemed a remote-controlled shut-off switch an unnecessary expense for drilling companies several years ago.

They knew the risks, and they ignored them. Out there in the oil-free blogosphere, some people are calling for freezing the assets and jailing some of the top corporate officials involved in the spill. One reader suggested that BP execs should be forced to assist in the clean-up without safety protection (along with the fisherman) and to live on the Louisiana coast for the duration of the clean-up.

Meanwhile, BP's chief executive, Tony Hayward, told reporters after walking along the oil-soaked Fourchon Beach that he had underestimated the possible environmental effects. "I'm as devastated as you are by what I've seen here today," he said. "We are going to do everything in our power to prevent any more oil from coming ashore, and we will clean every last drop up and we will remediate all of the environmental damage." Sounds like a plan.

"We used to live and die without any sense of the planet getting older, or mother earth getting older, living and dying," Martin Amis wrote in "London Fields." "We used to live outside history. But now we're all coterminous. We're inside history now all right, on its leading edge, with the wind ripping past our ears. Hard to love, when you're bracing yourself for impact."

"As you know, Suzi," my friend Bill Rutherfoord writes, "I suspect that stanching the planet's oily wound is beyond anyone's capability. We've always...had the capacity to kill the earth, and now it seems we've harpooned it once too often. To me, all the dead planets orbiting the sun along with the living earth, have strongly suggested a potential fate for our anomalous planet, Perhaps we'll soon join the celestial majority of spinning, rust-colored purgatories, enveloped in turbulent, gaseous firmaments. I'm ashamed." Bill

These days we will most certainly need guides through hell, as we try our best to navigate updated versions of Dante's "Inferno."

1 comment:

samantha said...

If you need a distraction from the oil spill, you can always google search the smoking baby from Indonesia. I can promise it won't make you feel any better, but there is something in it that mirrors our current situation and behavior.
I mean, is there a more destructive metaphor for environmental disaster than a baby who smokes two packs a day?

talk about gallows humor . . .