It was a few weeks after the oil well started spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico that I heard a radio reporter ask the increasingly commonplace question -- "Where's the outrage?"
Here's a better question: where isn't the outrage?
I'm outraged that 11 men died because a criminally negligent oil company (BP has a long track record) was cutting corners to save money. I'm outraged that this same oil company clearly had no plan, no idea what to do in the event of such a catastrophic accident. I'm outraged that their methods of "cleaning up" the oil haven't changed since the Exxon Valdez spill 20 years ago, and that most of them are either ineffective (booms that only work when the sea is calm), or worse than the oil itself (dumping highly toxic "dispersant" into the ocean). I'm outraged that they have clearly been lying about how much oil is pouring into the Gulf, and have been trying to keep reporters from seeing the worst damage.
I'm beyond outraged that our federal government has left this horrible, criminally negligent oil company in charge of the operation. What happened in the Gulf (and will continue to wreak havoc for years to come) is the equivalent of a nuclear weapon explosion. What the hell has to happen before the President organizes a truly national response? Why hasn't he mobilized every damn engineer in the country to try to stop the gusher? Why hasn't he brought any of our trillion dollars worth of military hardware and personnel, sitting on the other side of the planet in a different Gulf, back to help deal with this very clear and present threat to our nation?
I'm seething with rage that our government has allowed, if not helped, BP to hide the extent of the disaster so far. And that government regulators were, once again, in bed with the industry they are supposed to oversee. (Are they ever not?) And that we have to settle for kabuki theater Congressional hearings where everyone blames everybody else, and you just know that no BP executive will go to jail for this horrendous crime.
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I'm so outraged that when I think about it too long I start to shake. And for the most part I can't think about it -- it's just too much. Instead I am continually, deeply depressed, because we are watching the greatest environmental catastrophe in history unfold before our eyes, and I have no idea what to do about it. I suspect a lot of other people feel the same way.
And then I am stricken anew when I see a picture or think about the countless birds and turtles and fish and dolphins being choked to death on oil and wiped out, some species perhaps permanently since we are destroying their breeding grounds and nurseries. Have we become so divorced from nature that this type of staggering devastation no longer registers with us?
About a year ago I was discussing climate change with my god kids, and I joked that they needed to grow up fast and solve these problems. "We hear that a lot," my goddaughter responded.
My God, is that what we humans have become? The species that destroys the planet and then just turns to our kids and says, "Oops, sorry?" What has to happen before we make radical changes in the way we live on this planet? What the hell is wrong with us?