Friday, October 15, 2010

the ugly side of the rainbow

I remember when I was a child (I'm just full of memories lately, aren't I?), probably like most children, I thought puddles were fun.  I don't think I was ever the kid that took a running start and jumped into a puddle with both feet, but I know I liked to trudge through them and watch the water move in response to my tiny footprints.  To my mother's horror, my favorite puddles were in the parking lots of the local shopping center or mall.  My favorite puddles had the rainbows in them.

It meant very little to me when I was barely as tall as my mother's waist that the pretty puddles had oil in them.  What's oil to a five-year-old?  All I knew was that those were the ones I wanted to step in.  All my mother knew was how little she wanted to clean the oil off of my shoes, or God forbid, my ankle socks.

photo credit

Not so pretty now that I know the destruction of the rainbow puddles.  Sure, the little puddles in the mall parking lot made my mother's blood run cold, certainly imagining how likely or not likely it was that she would be able to salvage socks soaked with oiled water.  The "rainbow" in the Gulf of Mexico makes my blood run hot - hot with rage, not only over the event itself, but also people's varying reactions.

First, you have the people who immediately get to the heart of the problem - the fishing industry will suffer so!  The price of fish will sky rocket!  And the poor fishermen!  How will they make a living if all the things they were going to kill are already dead?  In all seriousness, especially in this abysmal economy, I do feel great compassion for their plight.  Even though I wish they would find a better way to feed their families, I regret that their livelihood has been torn away from them.

Next, you have the people who don't even try to hide their complete lack of substance.  As the rainbow puddle expands toward the crystal blue waters of the Florida Keys and other vacation destinations, hissy fits are thrown hither and yon - "What will happen to the travel industry??"  Once again, I feel badly for people who lose their job security when the economy is already in such awful shape that the unemployment benefits I collected for 8 months in 2006 have been extended to two years for the nearly 10% of America's workforce that isn't working.  However, my compassion is starting to wane.

What about the 13 humans who lost their lives in the course of the BP oil spill?  What about their families and friends?  What about the animals coated in oil or killed in the blast itself?  I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said before, but I'm really stunned by how little people are focusing on the devastating effects this catastrophe has wrought on ecosystems and the world we live in.

We have become so obsessed with the horrendous state of financial affairs the United States has endured over the past two years (I can't believe it's already been two years since the economy as we knew it came crashing down around our feet), it seems our automatic reaction to all tragedy is, "How will this affect me financially?"  We worry about the fishing industry, we worry about travel and resorts, we even worry about the beauty of the clear water and coral reefs (though now we are at least starting to move toward a bona fide ecological worry). 

To turn the tables just a little bit more, let's look at it like this: we need look no further for the blame of this "accident" than our own money-hungry culture.  No matter how tragic this event is and no matter how sad we are about it, it doesn't change the fact that it was our stupid decision to start drilling for oil underwater.  So, while we're polluting water, destroying ecosystems, and killing each other, someone in subSaharan Africa is walking several miles to a dirty and polluted body of water, gathering as much as they can in their vessel, and imbibing disease and filth because they have no other choice.  Drink dirty water or be thirsty and dehydrated - that's the other choice. 

It's been a long, exhausting and frustrating week.  I really don't have the energy to wage the all-out battle on water pollution for the sake of keeping America comfortable that I had intended to make.  I hope my semi-mindless rambling has at least caused you to pause and think before complaining about how needlessly expensive your catfish dinner is.

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