Ancient Oceans: The Planet's Plunder Will Continue in the Name of Progress

remnants of ancient oceans flow through our veins . . ."

Now, along
with endangered species, the Gulf spill has given us a new category:
endangered oceans.

challenges presented by the disaster lay before us in their
incomprehensible enormity. To what extent have the hundreds of thousands
of gallons of the highly toxic dispersant Corexit 9500 that BP has
poured into the Gulf aggravated the ecological horror? How will
hurricane season complicate the cleanup? Will the flow of crude continue
till Christmas? How many cleanup workers have gotten sick, and why?
Might the "relief well" also blow?

We can't
solve our problems, as Einstein said, with the same kind of thinking we
used to create them. This sums up the situation for me as well as
anything - and pushes my despair up against the door of possibility.
We're at the far edge of the industrial age: the age of fossil fuels.
How do we proceed beyond it?

I opened
this column with the words of Theodore Roszak, who coined the term
"ecopsychology" in his 1992 book, The Voice of the Earth. The
concept puts human beings back into context. We are children of the
earth - literally. "Making a personality, the task that Jung called
'individuation,' may be the adventure of a lifetime," Roszak writes.
"But the person is anchored within a greater, universal identity."

This is my
meditation for the day: the trans-human context in which we freely
create ourselves. This context binds us to the Gulf of Mexico and its
fragile ecosystems, which may be in a danger we can scarcely imagine. We
have not reacted to this with indifference - with a cold shrug. Our
well-being is profoundly at stake. The ancient ocean within us stirs.

Maybe what
we're seeing in the Gulf is the mirror of something internal. Maybe the
deep alienation we feel from nature, from our trans-human parentage,
contributes to the psychosis and dysfunctionality of our species.

writes: "The ecological ego matures toward a sense of ethical
responsibility with the planet that is as vividly experienced as our
ethical responsibility to other people. It seeks to weave that
responsibility into the fabric of social relations and political

I read this
and think about the wars and violence that circle the globe. Maybe this
insanity begins with our decision to dominate Mother Nature - and once
that sense of fundamental respect is broken, moral relativism is all we
have left.

"Forgive me,
all life forms of the Gulf, and all exquisitely unique and diverse
sentient beings," writes James O'Dea, author and former director of
Amnesty International, in what he calls his prayer for the Gulf. "I have
colluded in your poisoning."

Perhaps this
begins to get at it - the state of mind we need to cultivate simply to
come to grips with the complexity of what we've done in the Gulf. A
sense of alienation permeates modern society and drives its markets. It
spawns a value system that permits pollution and war in service to these
markets, and feeds the hatred and mistrust that fragment the planet.

"Help me now
to return to deep community. Help me to commune with Nature, not as a
tourist but as a co-inhabitant . . ."

The prayer
is a bridge across the chasm of our alienation. It embraces the idea
that all of us participate in the fossil-fuel culture; it is a cry for
awareness: "May consciousness witness the travesties and crimes that
humans have committed against Nature; and may this consciousness not
seek guilt and punishment as its new distraction."

I understand
what he's saying. Public fury directed at British Petroleum, the
government or the president can simply be a convenient diversion of
consciousness, leading to a futile, feel-good quest for revenge that
results in no fundamental social changes - and no advancement of human
thought beyond the level that created the disaster.

However, a
prayer for personal awareness simply isn't sufficient. There is another
form of alienation that permeates society, as we devolve ever more
deeply into spectators of life. This is alienation from our own power.

Public fury
at BP's cost-cutting decisions, secrecy, limited liability, choice to
use a highly toxic dispersant in staggering quantities, lack of public
remorse and whatever else it has done in violation of its unwritten
contract with humanity, has a legitimate basis, and demonstrates the
extent to which corporations do what they want. They consume the
planet's limited resources primarily in service of themselves. We go
along with it because we get our oil.

A prayer for
forgiveness, a vow to buy locally, bike more and live with greater
eco-awareness goes only halfway into the problem. As long as BP chooses
not to pray for forgiveness as well, little will change. The planet's
plunder will continue in the name of progress.

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