Saturday, June 19, 2010

Equally Clueless: Katrina vs. Horizon

How can one say what needs to be said, what one deeply feels, about the BP Gulf oil spill? Daily streams of outrage don't seem to be enough, don't seem to capture the sense of powerlessness and despair.

Naomi Klein manages in one short essay to capture some of the depth of feeling that is so critical to feel, otherwise we would simply become stupefied with numbness:

"If Katrina pulled back the curtain on the reality of racism in America, the BP disaster pulls back the curtain on something far more hidden: how little control even the most ingenious among us have over the awesome, intricately interconnected natural forces with which we so casually meddle. BP cannot plug the hole in the Earth that it made. Obama cannot order fish species to survive, or brown pelicans not to go extinct (no matter whose ass he kicks). No amount of money – not BP's recently pledged $20bn (£13.5bn), not $100bn – can replace a culture that has lost its roots. And while our politicians and corporate leaders have yet to come to terms with these humbling truths, the people whose air, water and livelihoods have been contaminated are losing their illusions fast."

To get a sense of how clueless and inept was the federal government's response to this crisis, imagine if the BP Horizon oil rig had been bombed by an Iranian "terrorist." How do you think the federal government would have responded? You would have seen Obama and his entire administration, including the entire Dept. of Defense, spring into immediate and relentless action. Obama would have been in the Gulf region as soon as the explosion had settled and the area was secured. His face would have been on television 24/7, talking incessantly about "the bombing of our oil supply, the destruction of our coastline and the threat to our nation." There would have been a relentless "pursuit of justice to punish those responsible for this attack." There would have been non-stop international negotiations with the UN and our Allies on the crisis, speedy and decisive plans of action to "stop the immediate threat to our national security", and a war-room huddle to decide whether to respond with an attack on Iran. How many billions of dollars in soldiers and armaments would we have spent to counter the attack of a terrorist bombing of an oil rig?

We had no such response to the BP spill, because, as Klein says, we believe that "nature takes care of itself." "Nature" took our endless dumping of garbage and plastic crappola for the last thousand years, so we suppose "nature" can take it for the next thousand years.

And since it was "collateral damage" from our own corporate allies, our own greed for oil and profit that caused this spill, we got instead a completely inadequate response from the Obama administration. His tepid, "too little, too late" response was just as vacuous, limp, and clueless as the response of the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina. The President's supporters protest that Obama didn't cause the oil spill. Well, George Bush didn't cause Hurricane Katrina. What we faulted Bush for was his incompetent and racist response to it. Bush then and to this day did not grasp that a hundred years of overdevelopment, the burning of fossil fuels, and a total disregard for the protective functions of coastal wetlands led to the catastrophic conditions that caused Hurricane Katrina. Bush didn't get it then and Obama doesn't get it now. Sadly, Obama has, in his response to the BP blowout, been equally clueless. People are absolutely right when they say, "it's Obama's Katrina." Sure, Obama has the rhetoric, calling for a "new green economy", but even Bush admitted more than once that "we are addicted to oil." Talk is cheap, and rhetoric is meaningless where immediate and decisive action is crucial for dealing with an ecological crisis of this magnitude.

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