Environment and Health
I have been to the Gulf Coast several times since the BP oil disaster started. I’ve spoken with affected residents, and I’ve taken boat tours to see the tragic images of oil-soaked birds and wetlands up close. Each time I go, everything seems to hit me even harder than the previous visit.
President Eisenhower is well remembered for correctly warning the public in his final address to the nation to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex.” In that same speech, Ike further cautioned that “we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” It’s time to pay close attention to this second warning too.
Let’s see. If a potentially toxic weedkiller were polluting your drinking water, would you want the EPA to ignore independent studies about this or prefer that the agency just follow reports carried out with funding from companies that have a financial stake in this product.
Okay people, nature needs us to focus. All of us who love polar bears, whales, seabirds, and other wildlife should put our minds together to send an urgent telepathic message to the animals in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. Our message is blunt: Flee! As fast as you can! BP is coming!
Al Gore did his best. So did the nation’s environmental community. They convinced a majority of Americans that climate change was both real and serious. Back then small cars enjoyed a spurt, curly light bulbs grew hip (and amazingly have held on), windmills found a big new fan base, and many folks set their heating thermostat cooler and their cooling thermostat hotter.
Here’s what you’ll find in this week’s OtherWords editorial package, which features a Donald Kaul column on Rep. Joe Barton’s foot-in-mouth problem and a Martha Burk op-ed about a potential threat to Social Security. The cartoon accompanies the op-ed by Philip Mattera about BP’s weak corporate ethics. You can get it all in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do.
A clever politician can get away with a lot; standards in the profession aren’t high. But if there is one thing Americans will not put up with from their elected officials, it’s complete honesty. The only truly unforgivable sin in Washington is sincerity.
BP’s catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrates how risky oil and gas drilling really is. For the 11 crew members killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Gulf communities, ocean water and wildlife, the impacts were immediate. The long-term repercussions will also be devastating. Stopping the leak, cleaning up the mess, and restoring the economic viability to the Gulf’s many industries that rely on clean, healthy water is going to be an enormous challenge.
What I have seen during my visits to the Gulf of Mexico is shocking, horrifying, and heartbreaking. One bird, covered in oil, struggled again and again to take off from the water. It’s the kind of image you want to share, not because it’s beautiful, but because you want so badly for people to understand.