It’s been over a month since 11 men lost their lives when the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, setting off an environmental disaster of biblical proportions.
Like a slow-motion nightmare, the whole situation just becomes more ominous and tragic by the day, as thousands of people try and fail to contain the damage or stop the gushing of oil and other contaminants into the most productive fisheries in the world.
Cable news networks snag environmental scientists, government officials, and oil company executives for in-depth interviews. Each guest, however, can only take one bite out of the elephant: this is a big, big story.
The little, one-minute human-interest pieces on half-hour network news shows really do a better job of giving people a sense of what this calamity is all about. It’s not about tons of oysters and shrimp that will never get to market or billions of dollars in lost revenue and cleanup costs. It’s not about numbers.
This story is about a woman who will soon file bankruptcy on her seaside restaurant, which now overlooks a gooey slick of toxic chemicals instead of a pristine beach. It’s about a tough-looking good-ol’ boy choking back tears as he tells of finding a young turtle of a highly endangered species gasping for air. It’s about third- and even fourth-generation fisher folk watching the only world they and their families have ever known disappear, for decades if not forever.
This is about fast, permanent, and measurable degradation of the planet by human actions. But mostly it’s about immeasurable suffering and despair. There’s human suffering, and there’s the suffering of millions upon millions of birds, sea mammals, fish, turtles, and countless other creatures—some of which will undoubtedly become extinct as their tiny, unique ecosystems are destroyed.
This is also, of course, a story about power, greed, and arrogance.
Is there anybody out there who still believes that the market is self-regulating and that companies can have the wisdom to protect their own interests, along with that of people and the planet? If so, which “planet” are they living on?
Clearly, when we get finished cutting some of the megabanks down to size, it’s time to consider whether there aren’t a lot of companies, too, that are “too big to fail.”