Friday, May 14, 2010

Infinite Supply

The reporting of the catastrophic well blowup in The Gulf of Mexico continues to dumbfound the Fourth Estate, though there are signs that they may be getting a clue. Why just the other day on PBS, I listened to someone presented as an authority on the subject downplay the present disaster as one on a par with the infamously legendary Exxon Valdez episode, but not quite as bad as the more recent Atlantic Empress oil spill that occurred near Trinidad.

I'm afraid to say that comparing The Exxon Valdez and Atlantic Empress incidents to The Gulf of Mexico well blowup is a bit like comparing lamb chops to bananas. Yes, they are, indeed, both food, but after that most comparisons between the aforesaid tanker spills and The Gulf disaster are either not worth making or simply don't exist. After all, The Exxon Valdez and Atlantic Empress spills, were just that, spills of some finite amount of crude. There is nothing finite about what is gushing from the bottom of The Gulf of Mexico.

Even the nature of the error, the circumstances of its occurrence, are considerably more complex than what transpired with The Exxon Valdez spill. We were able to determine fairly quickly exactly who was responsible for that one, but this mess doesn't even have a readily available name with which to attach itself because there are too many parties-the entire culture if one chooses to veer into the quasi-metaphysical- with red stained oil on their hands. As a result, this almost indescribable human &^%$ up is literally one which bears no name, and one whose widespread damage can not yet even begin to be calculated. Scared and/or disturbed yet? I know I am, because at every level our society operates, we are demonstrating that we either refuse (or lack the capacity) to adequately take the measure of this horrific event.


Thai said...

Nice post

Toby said...

Yes, this one scares me too. What I find simultaneously poetic and horrific about it is the sordid blandness of how it is being presented to us. "Who is to blame?", "mop it up with hair in stockings", "Tony Hayward might lose his job", "it's as bad some number of Exxon Valdezes", and so on. And the oil is so dirty and gluey, the dispersants artificial and polluting, the buck-passing petty and immature. We are being shown our most ugly face, and our reaction is to polish and spin, lipstick the pig we are until we can bear to look at ourselves in the mirror.

I try to stay as optimistic as I can, but this is a disaster porn too far. Too think we are risking the end of most life on earth for reasons of cost cutting and profit maximizing! It could not be more poetic, nor more sordid.

Debra said...

Cutting ourselves right down to the bone.
Wiping ourselves off the planet while we are wiping the leer off our faces...
That cynical stuff is to still the numbing fear we are carrying around inside.
Those of us who are afraid...
You know, haven't you ever heard somebody snicker when they hear a piece of really bad news about somebody else ? Or something tragic ?
It's... a nervous laugh.
We COULD sit down and say to ourselves and everybody else who wants to hear...
We've fucked up. We're scared. We don't know what to do now.
That wouldn't be very.. manly now, would it ?
Not very... virile ?
Ah.. those virtues of power. Manliness. Virility.
They are really getting in our way right now.
In both sexes, moreover...
You know.. I believe that we are capable of so many BEAUTIFUL and NOBLE things and attitudes.
I hope that we will find our way back to (re)discovering this about ourselves...

Thai said...

Toby re: "Too think we are risking the end of most life on earth for reasons of cost cutting and profit maximizing! It could not be more poetic, nor more sordid."

I suspect we are on a totally different level in this discussion and therefore probably agree but the from my perspective, the problem with this kind of comment is I think it violates certain laws of the universe.

Having said this (and again, do not misunderstand my point as this spill is simply heartbreaking), a spill which is huge and growing and yet still largely invisible begs the question, "do these kinds of oil spills occur naturally anyway?"

Volcanoes blow quite profoundly from time to time and when this happens underwater, we only know of their existence by the ripples they make.

Are there not periodic natural super oil gushers as well?

We know oil leakage occurs naturally all the time (This article from Nature suggests natural spontaneous oil release at around 160,000 tons annually from the sea floor but also admit this is in small, diffuse and therefore ecologically "silent" releases).

But like all complex systems, we would not expect this to release phenomena to be linear. So would we also not occasionally be expected to witness natural seepage Krakatoas but have been simply unaware of their existence?

Would we have a way of even knowing this?

And again, please understand my questioning in no way is meant to either excuse or forgive this mess one bit.

I'm not suggesting that because Krakatoas happens naturally, we should engineer one accidentally.

And I am curious to understand what a natural oil Krakatoa might have done on its own elsewhere before.

This oil is leaking at a very deep depth.

Debra said...

Toby, I'm missing something here..
What is... POETIC about cost cutting ?
That statement baffles me a little bit.
While melancholy CAN engender some really beautiful art... (look at Schumann, look at Beethoven, Dowland, Schubert, just for the composers, look at.. Shakespeare in King Lear, or Sophocles), harnessing melancholy to cost cutting is, well...
I can't find a word for it right now. My vocabulary is not up to it.

Thai said...



Edwardo said...

Thai, your musings, for lack of a better word, on the catastrophic effects of naturally occurring phenomena are of interest, and remind me a bit of an advertisement in Life Magazine that I recall from childhood. If memory serves, and it probably does only just, the ad was for some company that was in the nuclear power business.

A "nuclear" family of four, mom, dad, son and daughter, are taking in a museum exhibit of a similarly constructed family of Neanderthals who are, sitting around the fire. Above them (or below them) a caption reads,

"Radiation. It's been in the family for generations."

Somehow, as I revisit the memory of that hoary advertisement, I can only manage a rueful smile.

Thai said...

I thought the macabre disaster angle would get your attention ;-)

Be well

Edwardo said...

Speaking of macabre disaster angles.

Thai said...

Yes, thanks. I saw this.

This is so sad.