“How else to describe this, but as a form of mass insanity. Just when we know we need to be learning to live on the surface of our planet, off the power of sun, wind and waves; we are frantically digging to get at the dirtiest, highest emitting stuff imaginable…”
The brilliant Naomi Klein delivered this TED talk at on December 8, 2010, in Washington, DC. (A transcript of her speech is to be found below the fold).
For unlucky residents of the Gulf States, the BP oil-spill disaster, coming up on 100 days, could take another turn for the worst if one of the storms churning up tropical waters in the Atlantic Ocean blossoms into a full-blown hurricane and heads into the Gulf of Mexico.
For several already marginalized Native tribes living on the Louisiana Coast – many of them fishermen and shrimpers – a hurricane crashing through the oil-polluted Gulf now could destroy a way of life that has survived for centuries.
Already, the tribal land among the coastal bayous is disappearing faster than anywhere on the planet, the victim of unbridled oil exploration and dam building projects of the Army Corps of Engineers dating back to the 1930s.
“For us it’s more like a hundred years of oil disasters than a hundred days,” said Chief Charles Verdin of the Pointe au Chien tribe. “And really when you look at it … it’s business as usual. The tribes being ignored, forgotten, overlooked, and forced from their land.”
Scientists and environmentalists across the United States and around the globe have their fingers crossed that BP’s claim to have finally capped its runaway well, after three months, is true, and that the damage of history’s worst environmental disaster can now be assessed in finite terms.
Yet, it will take years, if not decades, to truly comprehend the extent of the devastation: the dead and damaged wildlife, the soiled beaches and marshes, and the huge swaths of the sea that may become dead zones, so polluted that fish and other animals can’t survive there.
Even as BP was announcing its alleged capping success, many more wounded animals were being spotted and oil was still splashing on shorelines across the Gulf. Just recently, oil surged into one of the largest sea-bird nesting areas along Louisiana’s coast near Raccoon Island.
Three hundred to four hundred more pelicans were spotted with oil, as well as hundreds of terns. Scientists say these visible blotches of oil mean death for the sea birds.
To date, it’s estimated that over 3,000 birds have been killed, 59 dolphins, at least one sperm whale, and more than 460 turtles. Indeed, perhaps the species most threatened by the tens of millions of gallons of oil and toxic dispersants is the giant prehistoric sea turtle.
Dr Christopher A. Pincetich, a marine biologist and toxicologist for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, is convinced that the BP oil spill has destroyed a “generation” of turtles.
“We’re working as fast as we can on several fronts,” Dr. Pincetich said in an interview from New Orleans. “Most urgent right now is the immediate rescue of more of the endangered sea turtles that are in the Gulf oil spill right now.”
Recent talk surrounding BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico due to corporate negligence has drawn light on the Exxon Valdez disaster and one which devastated one of India’s poorest regions with its effects still very much raw and constantly ignored by the US media. Obama’s anti-BP rhetoric has spurred many of those affected by this disaster to point out Western double standards.
Twenty five years after the world’s biggest industrial disaster, Union Carbide’s old pesticide factory remains untouched, haunting the crowded city of Bhopal, a constant reminder of the region’s darkest night.
On the night of 3 December 1984 the lethal gas methyl isocyanate (MIC) alongside other noxious fumes, engulfed the city of Bhopal and killed thousands. It is thought that the disaster has claimed 25,000 lives thus far, and adversely affected over 500,00. Gross negligence by Union Carbide is widely viewed as the cause of the tragedy.
Earlier last week, after a quarter century of waiting and sloppy, almost reluctant court action, lamentable sentences were passed down to seven Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) officials. Sentences of two years were administered to some of those presiding over the corporation when the tragedy occurred; a small group of incredibly wealthy Indian men, all in their 70’s, one of whom is a billionaire, and none of whom are expected to serve their sentences. In addition to the sentencing, each of the seven men were fined a paltry £1400, an amount which would barely pays for the yearly healthcare of one of the victims, let alone serves as meaningful punishment for this appalling crime.
These convictions are so far the only to have materialised in a case that was opened the day after the tragedy in 1984. Those ultimately responsible for the tragedy, namely the corporation’s CEO and equally negligent Western officials, remain unpunished.
Survivors and campaigners have been outraged, calling last week’s decision an ‘insult’. However, as we are about to see, this is only the most recent of a long history of insults.
NOVA SCOTIA—”BP has done ruined all those people’s lives down there,” said my friend Bill, a Nova Scotia lobsterman in his seventies, as we talked about the fate of Louisiana fishermen the other day. Many are Cajuns, descended from French Acadian settlers who once lived along this very coast, prior to their expulsion by the British in the 1750s.
Having worked on the sea all his life, Bill said sadly: “We ain’t seen nothing yet. I don’t care how you look at it, that oil is coming up here.” Remarking on swordfish and tuna, which winter and spawn in the Gulf but are caught by Canadian fishermen in the summer, he noted that “fish swim, but that oil will kill every fish egg it touches.”
Although the focus of the environmental impacts of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been primarily on the devastation of the coastal wildlife, marshes, and beaches of the Gulf Coast, the impacts will be felt all along the Atlantic coast, as well. With the spill, now in its third month, spewing oil into the ocean at the rate of at least 60,000 barrels a day, it’s clear BP CEO Tony Hayward’s claim that the environmental impact would be “very, very modest” could not be farther from the truth.