Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Orange Alligator and the Black Tide: Day Fifty

A fisherman from Louisiana breaks down and weeps on TV, as he tries to talk about the devastation in the Gulf. BP's Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles repeatedly insists that no massive underwater oil plumes in "large concentrations" have been detected. But a report on Greenwire states that researchers aboard the F.G. Walton Smith vessel on a two-week cruise traced an underwater oil plume 15 miles wide, 3 miles long and about 600 feet thick. The plume's core is 1,100 to 1,300 meters below the surface, they said.

A professor of English at a college in W. Va., just back from a trip to visit his daughter, who is a student of Marine Hydrography at the University of Southern Mississippi, writes an essay about his visit there, published in my local paper. He begins his article with this paragraph: "In one climactic scene in the disaster film "2012," thousands stand numb, disbelieving and helpless in a collective embrace, as a giant, crushing tsunami approaches. On a visceral level, that's the impression I have of the northern Gulf Coast region." Talking later with a group of researchers from USM, he finds all of their comments to be remarkably consistent: once the oil hits the unprotected and vulnerable marshes, bayous, and estuaries, the obliteration of the eco-systems will be irreversible.

In a neighboring column on the same page, that oft-ridiculous syndicated columnist and right-winger, Cal Thomas, produces yet another rant declaring that the evidence for the "myth of global warming," or climate change, is "sinking with a greater force than melting icebergs, if they were melting, which many believe they are not." Thomas considers the idea of human activity warming the planet has never had a real consensus anyway. To quote his precise opinion on the matter: "Most of us may not have gotten an 'A' in science, but we can sense when we are being bamboozled." For this unadulterated claptrap, Thomas actually receives a salary.

Meanwhile, as I catch momentary glimpses of the underwater BP videocam on TV, it is obvious to me that the flow of oil has doubled since a twisted riser was cut off last week to provide better access to the pipe. It becomes harder and harder to comprehend what conditions will be like by the end of the summer.

The photo shown above is of an AP photographer journalist, Rick Matthews, as he jumps into the Gulf for a few minutes some forty miles off-shore, in order to take photos. Within five seconds he was unable to see anything. "The only thing I see is oil," he reported. "The oil is so thick and sticky almost like cake batter. It does not wipe off...I think to myself: no fish, no bird, no turtle would ever be able to clean this off themselves."

Think of this as an oil tsunami, in slow motion. that seems to be dividing the world up between people who are feeling like they've been blowtorched, and people who are going about their business as usual and still enjoying life.

"I've been reading your blog." writes an artist friend in New York, Angela Manno. "I completely resonate with your fears and woes, however I am incapable of putting a lid on it. It seems everyone I speak to is pissed off, frightened and aware of the severity of the situation. And if not, they are willing to listen. I suppose I'm lucky in this regard. But then, I'm living in NYC and hang out with Quakers. I'm sure this will change when I go to Colorado in another month. They live in a bubble and don't want it to burst. They are a lot happier, though. . . "

Her email continues: "I spent the afternoon yesterday writing about the hemorrhage in the Gulf and crying to the point where I had to do something to take the edge off -- I had no pain killers in the apartment so I went out for a drink. What's more, I too wrote a review of Bill McKibbin's Eaarth, for the Quaker environmental Journal, "Befriending Creation," that I write for on occasion. There's some kind of alchemy that has gone on between reading it, the gusher in the Gulf and my psyche. I feel the need to do something and at the same time feel helpless. I thought about going down to help and then thought of the toxic situation and what will happen when a hurricane brings all that poison inland and destroys people's drinking water and turns everything black...I have so much to say about this. I am trying to create a blog and to submit my thoughts to other venues. I don't know how it can help, but perhaps it will help this headache."

I'm more than willing to share my blog, if it is useful to folks like Angela.

"One thing [more] I'd like to comment on," Angela writes, "is the discussion of 2012 and how this event relates: We know everything in nature has a function -- we breathe out CO2 and plants breathe it in. One creature's waste is another's food. What is the function of the oil reserves where they are, undisturbed? Amazingly, no ecologist can say. To my mind, the enormous pressure these veins of oil are under might maintain a kind of balance with all the mass (and all its pressure) that is above them. Empty them out and could we be looking at a massive collapse of the land masses? Did that sink hole in Ecuador have anything to do with the Deepwater Horizon incident?"

"The Hopi," she goes on, "have prophesied that as we near the Day of Purification, 'You will hear of the sea turning black, and many living things dying because of it.' Can there be any doubt that this is what sensitive people feel deep in their guts, that we are approaching the time when a critical mass of offenses against the Earth will manifest and, in an instant. wipe us off the planet?...Perhaps the most disturbing thing that I read in Eaarth was getting clear about the missed opportunity we had 40 years ago to pre-empt what has befallen this beautiful Earth. That the Club of Rome and E.F. Schumacher and Carter and the majority of Americans agreed with limiting growth. And then the Powell Memo changed it all. And the lies kept on coming and they have changed policy and Congress and public opinion and the courts and the schools and the media and our very synaptic connections. Right up to the present where Larry Summers, Obama’s chief economic advisor can state: 'There are no limits to the carrying capacity of the earth that are likely to bind any time in the foreseeable future. There isn’t a risk of apocalypse due to global warming or anything else. The idea that we should put limits on growth because of some natural limit is a profound error.' "

So that's who's running the show, according to Angela. And that's why we cower in an attic waiting, waiting. "I suppose I should find the right fiddle. Or become a combatant in what Quakers call 'the Lamb's War.' ”

It seems that the border between normality and hysteresis is invisible until you find yourself on the wrong side of it.

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