Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Darwin Bond-Graham’s essay, “Et in Arcadia, Oil!,” In the September 2010 edition of CNS, provides a beautiful and rich description of the naturally abundant ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico, how it has been degraded, particularly by the enormous oil extraction/petroleum processing complex in Louisiana and its associated corruption of those who have gained from it, and raises the issue of how, or even if—with this latest insult of the BP oil well blowout—such serious environmental destruction can be reversed.

Despite the fact that nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil haemorrhaged into the Gulf, earning it the dubious distinction of being the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, the Obama administration and the corporate media have—seemingly days after BP finally (but perhaps not permanently) capped the well—made the absurd claim that 75 to 80 percent of the oil had been captured, burned, naturally biodegraded, or dispersed in the warm waters of the Gulf. Of course that ridiculous assertion was challenged soon after by scientists at the University of Georgia, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and the University of South Florida, who have been methodically sampling the waters of the Gulf. The Woods Hole scientists discovered a 1.2-mile wide and 650-foot high plume 3,000 feet below the surface near the wellhead. University of Georgia scientists estimated that about 79 percent of the leaked oil has not yet been accounted for. University of South Florida researchers announced that they had found oil in sediments in an underwater canyon east of the wellhead.

This situation raises many questions. One particularly relevant one for CNS readers to consider is the length that the capitalist state will go to in order to try to protect some of its primary players, in this case the oil-industrial complex. Bond-Graham points out that the enormously rich Gulf is dying, and in the face of one of the biggest, most obvious environmental assaults, the official response is to try to shove it under the rug. As the ecological crisis worsens with global warming climate chaos and other threats, this pathetic response has grave implications for us all.

Let’s use this Blog space to tabulate environmental hot spots that you are working on. What is actually being done to reclaim them? Post a short descriptive note.

In my own work, for example, the 23 mile long Bronx River has been the recipient of two centuries of overwhelming sewage waste. In small quantities, a water body can receive this kind of waste and, overtime, the waste will degrade. But in sufficient quantity sewage does not degrade sufficiently and overwhelms the environment. Over the past decade almost 50 auto bodies have been removed from the Bronx River along with over 10,000 tires. As a result, recreation has increased on the river. Last year over 1,400 people canoed down the river. Unfortunately, today the Bronx River is still receiving ample quantities of sewage waste. It may never again be used as a drinking water source.

Karen Charman and Maarten de Kadt