Dead zones suffocating 20,000 square kilometers of ocean. Endangered wetlands, disappearing at the rate of over 300 Ha/day. Clouds of black viscous poison soiling the coastlines of four states.
And then the Deepwater Horizon blew up.
What, you thought those apocalyptic descriptions were of the spill? You thought the Gulf of Mexico was some pristine marine wilderness before those nefarious assholes from BP came along and ruined everything?
What are you, twelve?
Everything I’ve just described was old news long before April 20. Granted, the black tides were dinoflagellate blooms, not oil slicks; the dead zones came to us courtesy of the Mississippi, which delivers agricultural runoff from almost half the continental US. The wetlands — 40% of the US total — were being decimated daily: by dredging, by condominiums and golf courses, by the collapse of the very substrate as oil and gas were sucked up from underneath.
Wile E. Coyote ran off the cliff decades back, was already halfway to the rocks below, and nobody gave a shit. Now you start wailing and gnashing your teeth, just because the anvil BP dropped into his arms is making him fall faster?
Me, I prefer to look on the bright side. The Gulf was already dying, just like the rest of the planetary conshelf. The fishers and tour guides were already dead men walking; the wetlands were already doomed. Nobody cared. Now they do, and I think that’s a good thing.
Not because we’ll finally survey the carnage, take a deep breath, roll up our sleeves and fix things. Only an idiot would believe that that’s ever going to happen. Gulf coast residents are already complaining that a moratorium on new wells will cost thousands of jobs; the Obama administration is poised to permit the resumption of oil exploration in the Gulf; and all the foxhole environmentalists screaming about Big Bad Oil will shut up the moment the price of gas sails past $4/gallon. Nah, we’re pretty much like every other species on the planet: short-sighted, hooked on instant gratification, drawn irresistibly to the path of least resistance. The spill could continue unabated into next year, but long before then it will have stopped being News; we’ll forget about it as soon as American Idol starts up again.
But if we’re no good at cleaning up the shit we’ve sowed, if we’re incapable of taking the long view, there’s one thing we absolutely kick ass at. Can you hear it? Can you hear Rush Limbaugh spluttering that the Sierra Club should pay for the cleanup, because it was those idiot environazis that forced drilling off the land in the first place? Can you see Sarah Palin’s Trig-worthy attempts at revisionism as she tries to claim that “Drill Baby Drill” actually meant only-on-land-and-never-in-the-water-NOW-do-those-crazy-greenies-get it? Did you see Halliburton and BP and Transocean falling all over themselves trying to blame each other for the mess?
That’s what we rock at. That’s where we leave every other species in the dust: the laying of blame. And with the laying of blame comes the passion for payback. And when we see a sociopathic scumbag like Tony Hayward try to emulate human emotions, try to feign empathy and vulnerability by going all seal-pup-eyed and saying “I’d really like my life back…”
— you know, someone could easily take a shot at the sonofabitch. Or if not at Tony (he’s probably pretty well protected, after all), maybe a member of his family. Maybe the day’s not too far off when we find Liz Cheney’s entrails strung along a barbed-wire fence overlooking that cesspool that used to be the Gulf of Mexico. Or maybe we’ll just have to settle for beating the shit out of the guys who pump gas down at the local service station, or putting a brick through the windows of those adjusters working to cheat the local bait shop out of its just compensation. Sure, those are just small fry. They didn’t make any of the Big Choices. But they chose one thing, at least: they chose which side they were on when they took the job. And BP sure as shit ain’t going to be assigning bodyguards to folks that far down the ladder.
Of course, there would be consequences. British Petroleum — a criminal corporation with countless infractions and convictions already notched onto its bedpost — is already a serial murderer. It kills entire ecosystems as we speak, ruins countless lives. If any of us little people tried to repay even a fraction of that in kind the whole weight of governments and armies would try to squash us flat. I know first-hand the righteous outrage that inflames such cocksuckers when anyone tries to do to them the merest fraction of what they do to us on a daily basis. We all know the overwhelming force that would be brought to bear on the “anarchists” and “criminals” who dared to “take the law into their own hands”.
But revenge is funny that way. They’ve done the studies; we’re inclined to punish those who trespass against us even when it hurts us more than the other guy. It’s just the way our brains our wired. And so at least some of us will strike back — not because we’re in a position of strength, or because we think we can get away with it, or even because it’s the right thing to do. Some of us will strike back simply because whatever the cost, it feels good to sink your teeth into the throat of the asshole who’s ruined your life. It feels good to hit back.
And the rest of us — those who kow-tow, and back down, and do what we’re told because we know what happens to us if we don’t — we’ll feel good too, when CNN shows us the footage of Tony Hayward’s children being carted off the stage in body bags.
That is the one positive result this unimaginable catastrophe might yield, when all is said and done. It might at least make us feel good.
I’ll take what I can get.
Postscript 10/06/10 1215 EST: I’ve never done this before, but I’d like a preemptive word with those who might be inclined to post comments regarding my advocacy of brute violence as a solution to complex envirocorpolitical issues: please, before commenting, go back and read this post again. Carefully this time. If you still think that’s what I’m doing, at least read the lengthy follow-up I posted down in the comment stream.
If you’re still not clear after that, well, go ahead and have at me.