than a bad one
"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear
--The Walrus and the Carpenter,
It takes some cheek to go and use a sunflower
logo when your business is dirty oil
--Ben Stewart, Greenpeace activist
Sunday homily: Totemism
Yesterday and today there was a heavy haze over Tallahassee, and I am not the only one who thought there was a faint whiff of petroleum in the air. We are only 30 miles from the coast. But of course, such group sensory phenomena are known to happen.
Why do these simplistic, symbolic gestures seem so comforting and necessary to people? It is like the razing of the Amish school post school-shooting or Abu Ghraib, or the current demands for the resignation of the Duisburg mayor following the deaths at the Love Festival: These people or structures are not the cause of the problems; how can their removal effect their repair? Resources and manpower are finite quantities. Every demolition or firing is a loss of materiel.
Last week a study on the dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico (Corexit = "corrects it" -- the arrogance!) claims they "do not seem to disrupt marine life." Of course, the tests were done on a cells in a petri dish vs. real, live animals, so the results should be taken with a heaping serving of caution.
But we like to be told things will be well. People are esp. sympathetic to the plights of helpless animals, so it plays well to lessen their mental anguish, such as it is.
Estimates of how much petroleum has poured into the Gulf vary widely. BP's party line escalated slowly from 1,000 barrels per day to 5,000, then ten thousand or more, as other agencies began to surveil the flow. Using private scientific estimates, the rate of flow ranged from 20,000 to 80,000+ barrels per day. Internal BP documents estimate as much as 100,000 barrels per day.
Using 50,000 barrels per day as a mean, this would indicate 4,300,000 barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf over the almost 3 month span of the incident. "The Gulf of Mexico has been inundated with the equivalent of more than an Exxon Valdez-size spill each week" (Research on Gulf oil spill shouldn't take a backseat to litigation) and the 1989 Valdez spill has devastated Prince William Sound for decades.
Three months of living in the newly-toxic Gulf is not enough time to claim no effects from dispersants. Is anyone that gullible? There is one thing I do not like, and that is an outright lie. Corexit was banned in Britain for killing the limpet population. Do not tell me this toxin, dispersed with protective suits, is benign.
I lived in Central Florida, where a major lake (Apopka) was slowly killed due to pesticide and fertilizer runoff from the surrounding muck farms.
Lake Apopka was once a fisherman's paradise in the mid-20th century, but no more. The lake is the subject of much research, as it is here the androgynous frogs live. Two-headed frogs; male frogs with female reproductive systems. The ramifications are broad, as Lake Apopka was the headwaters of the Chain of Lakes, so many other lakes were also poisoned as well.
Yesterday congressional investigators"railed" against the Coast Guard and BP for their over-use of the dispersants:
"The investigators said the U.S. Coast Guard routinely approved BP requests to use thousands of gallons of the chemical per day to break up the oil in the Gulf, despite a federal directive to use the dispersant rarely. The Coast Guard approved 74 waivers over a 48-day period after the Environmental Protection Agency order, according to documents reviewed by the investigators. Only in a few cases did the government scale back BP's request.
"Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., released a letter Saturday that said instead of complying with the EPA restriction, 'BP often carpet bombed the ocean with these chemicals and the Coast Guard allowed them to do it'" (Congressmen: Too Much Dispersant Used in Oil Spill).
But it turned out the stuff in the orange barrels used in Vietnam wasn't that benign, after all.
[Co-posted @ Big Brass Blog]