Guilty Planet

History repeats itself. Boy does it.

This was never more evident than after I finished reading Charles Wohlforth’s The Fate of Nature (2010), which has a few ominous chapters dedicated to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Wohlforth was a journalist who covered the spill in the field and after reading his account, I was humbled by the realization that none of my observations of the BP oil spill were orignal. The landscape is almost exactly the same, except for the fact that BP is going to wind up paying less money for a bigger disaster and that photoshop didn’t exist yet, so Exxon couldn’t tamper photographs of their control room.

Wohlforth’s thoughts about the Exxon spill are in blockquotes:

As I spent more time on the sound, in the oil, the press conferences and carnival of activity in Valdez seemed increasingly irrelevant and disconnected from reality. Exxon officials always announced numbers — miles of boom, numbers of skimmers, million of dollars spent — facts that, if they meant anything at all, couldn’t be checked.

Yep.

When the workers began landing on oiled beaches they were given oil-absorbent rages to wipe off individual rocks.”

In the Gulf of Mexico, it’s paper towels and saltmarshes.

A man said that taking an Exxon paycheck for doing nothing was his way of punishing the company.”

I heard one fisherman in the Vessel of Opportunity program say that the BP oil spill was God’s way of redistributing wealth.

Did the cleanup as a whole do more harm than good? The question is unanswerable without defining good. It benefited Exxon and its competitive corporate-government paradigm. Cleaning eliminated most visible evidence of oil. The effort took so long world attention turned to other issues and anger faded. A diminished Prince William Sound became the new baseline for the next generation of people. Today the spill has passed into history and Exxon still rules the world. Good also, perhaps, from the point of view of human users of the beaches, since the cleanup may have hastened the time when they felt safe eating clams, fish, and seals again. Cleaning probably shortened the the time active contamination affected some species. But if good is defined as the total health of the ecosystem, it’s probably that much less cleaning would have been better. Oil would have been dispersed anyway, more slowly but without the cleanup’s many environmental costs. And more of the visible black asphalt would have remained, biologically inert but a powerful warning about the costs companies like Exxon impose on our shared birthright. Cleaning removed the evidence, but not the damage.

BP has used more than 1.8 million gallons of dispersant.

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“…Kindhearted television viewers were instead dealt the ahppy ending of seeing treated animals released, as if cured, rather than images of terminally disabled otters being euthanized. By denying them the truth, the Fish and Wildlife Service compounded the harm of the oil spill.”

BP allows a lot of media access, but it’s the kind of media they want. At the rehabilitation center, reporters can watch oiled birds getting clean. They can’t see them dead (see photo; that’s a crime scene and apparently not media worthy).

Exxon sent checks to vessel owners who had volunteered in the clean up. An average boat chartered for $3,000 a day, almost all profit, since expenses were paid separately by Exxon. As the boats stayed out for weeks and month, often with hardly anything to do, life-changing sums of money accumulated; owners of big boats, or of more than one, became spillionaires.

Yep. This is true, too.

Note: the Center for American Progress also has some excellent posts that compare the two oil spills and analyze how Exxon managed to make money and avoid punishment after their spill.

Comments

  1. #1 darwinsdog
    September 1, 2010

    As we slide down the right slope of Hubbert’s curve, there will be more accidents and spills since the remaining petroleum is in deeper water and otherwise more extreme environments. Likewise, the technology required for extracting this harder-to-get oil is more complex meaning there is more that can go wrong with it. Since the biosphere can’t feed anywhere near the human population that now burdens the Earth without huge fossil fuel inputs, we as a species have little choice but to continue extracting and oxidizing petroleum and other fossil fuels. The outcome of not doing so is population collapse. Such oil spills as occurred in Prince William Sound and off the mouth of the Mississippi will therefore become more common and their accumulated environmental impacts will become more severe. We can expect to lose entire ecosystems as the extinction of the species that comprise them continues to accelerate. This is just the truth of the matter and there is precious little we can do, individually and collectively, to ameliorate the situation. We all share blame and responsibility for this sorry state of affairs since we all “benefit” from the energy provided by fossil fuels. This being the case, there’s little utility to lamenting oil spills and other consequences of fossil fuel extraction and utilization. There’s a degree of hypocrisy involved with such lamentation while we continue to power our lives with fossil fuels.

  2. #2 Jim Thomerson
    September 2, 2010

    According to article in the newspaper, BP has spent $93.4 million for ads from April to the end of July. Surely this makes jobs in the ad world, saves foundering newspapers, etc. The ad campaign is having some success in making people think better of BP. Additionally BP has furnished $89.5 million in grants to four gulf states to promote tourism. However, there are those who criticize the emphasis on “polishing the company’s image”.

  3. #3 Apollo2020
    September 7, 2010

    Thanks for this eye-opening post. Tweaking policies or updating guidelines is simply not enough. Most of the oil extracted from the Earth eventually finds it’s way into the oceans, spilled or not. Check out the URL for a startling comparison of the oil released in the Deep Water Horizon spill to the amount of oil we have already released into the ocean… as plastic.

  4. #4 Israel
    September 14, 2010

    On an unrelated note, I just heard Jennifer on NPR. She did great! The MSC lady was a jerk. :p Congrats on the Nature letter getting news… at least at 10pm on a monday night on NPR. I hope there’s more coverage coming soon.

  5. #5 Juicy handbags
    September 14, 2010

    I think that the next judge should be American on any of these shows that deal with America.
    I don’t care who it is I am just sick of seeing judges from England An American can should judge what America wants. I think taking someone that has been around music would be great but what about someone that is just a person that loves music and would vote on what gave then goose bumps or made them feel good. Yeah it is not all of what America wants, but what judge makes a decision for all. A judge should be decided on taking random people and then having America judge the judge and keep on who they like. With all the money being made on the shows it, I think that anyone off the street would gladly take those millions of dollars. I think it would be fair to get paid less and then pay others more or have more stars on there to make the contestants feel relax and give them the coaching they made need to succeed. And don’t get me wrong the first line is an attention getter and not to be taken wrong but we have plenty of people here.

  6. #6 Survival Acres
    September 22, 2010

    I’m certain it’s very difficult for someone’s who has had their way of living destroyed (fisherman for example) to turn down the “easy money” being offered by BP. All were forced to sign non-disclosures and instructed that if they talk to the press, they would be fired. By so doing, they all became unwitting accomplices to BP’s criminal actions.

    The US government should have put a stop to this, since nobody else could have. No “employee” should be forced to hide the evidence, or be threatened about speaking to the press, or engaged in the massive coverup of the incalculable environmental damage.

    But as you say, more of the same… business as usual is what Americans have come to expect, they don’t even object to this anymore even when it’s destroying them.

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll drive a few readers over here, everybody should know what BP has done.

  7. #7 jason
    September 26, 2010

    i think what scares me is not only the comparison between the two but the spills that have occurred in between these two. In america we get the publicity of the spills in our country but the gigantic spills in other countries whose governments are not able to make demands on bp do not get cleaned up. the oil in the ocean still eventually effects our life and what we spend on fuels but the company has a lot less to worry about from a country in africa whose gov’t only exists because bp put them there.
    does anyone still remember ken saro wiwa??

  8. #8 athdead
    October 18, 2010

    THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION!

    the WORLD TRADE CENTER PROPHECY – THE DANCE OF DEATH

    youtube.com/watch?v=X0Hez25fFrg

    the ungrateful bastards full of hubris…

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubris

    a bullet for your head, traitor

    And finally, the *only* man in Minnesota who says there is no God has suddenly become an arbiter on mental health…

    unfacts.org/factsforum/viewtopic.php?t=4080

    COME SEE A PHOTO OF MABUS AND AN EXPLANATION OF IT!

  9. #9 Oyunu oyna
    November 15, 2010

    Thanks for this eye-opening post. Tweaking policies or updating guidelines is simply not enough. Most of the oil extracted from the Earth eventually finds it’s way into the oceans, spilled or not. Check out the URL for a startling comparison of the oil released in the Deep Water Horizon spill to the amount of oil we have already released into the ocean… as plastic.

  10. #10 tütüne son
    November 18, 2010

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll drive a few readers over here, everybody should know what BP has done.

  11. #11 orjin krem
    December 6, 2010

    According to article in the newspaper, BP has spent $93.4 million for ads from April to the end of July. Surely this makes jobs in the ad world, saves foundering newspapers, etc. The ad campaign is having some success in making people think better of BP. Additionally BP has furnished $89.5 million in grants to four gulf states to promote tourism. However, there are those who criticize the emphasis on “polishing the company’s image”.

  12. #12 kibarlı
    December 28, 2010

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll drive a few readers over here, everybody should know what BP has done.

  13. #13 Gastromid
    December 28, 2010

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll drive a few readers over here, everybody should know what BP has done

  14. #14 formula 21 formen
    February 2, 2011

    i think what scares me is not only the comparison between the two but the spills that have occurred in between these two. In america we get the publicity of the spills in our country but the gigantic spills in other countries whose governments are not able to make demands on bp do not get cleaned up. the oil in the ocean still eventually effects our life and what we spend on fuels but the company has a lot less to worry about from a country in africa whose gov’t only exists because bp put them there.
    does anyone still remember ken saro wiwa??

  15. #15 film izle
    February 15, 2011

    I mean, really?? I’m a scientist, and just reading that even made *my* eyes glaze over. If one thing they’re trying to convey is the importance and relevance of the scientist’s research to GQ readers, what percentage of the readers are really going to walk away with a deeper understanding of what Dr. Jamieson does by reading that description? It would have been a small thing to ask each participant to submit a layman-friendly version of their research (their “elevator talk” description, for example) for GQ to include.

    Finally–one of the “scientists” is Dr. Oz. What is he doing in there? One, I would think he’s already well-known enough; why not save that spot for another scientist? Two, yes, I know he’s actually done research and published, and is on the faculty at Columbia. Fantastic. He’s also a serious woo peddler, who has even featured everyone’s favorite “alternative” doc, Joseph Mercola, on his talk show, and discussed how vaccines may be playing a role in autism and allergies (despite mounds of evidence to the contrary). This seems to completely contradict their goal of “research funding as a national priority,” since Oz is often (and Mercola is always) highly critical of “mainstream medicine.” I really don’t understand his inclusion, and think it’s to the detriment of the rest of the campaign.

  16. #16 orjin yüzbakım seti
    February 25, 2011

    CİLDİNİZİN BEKÇİSİ ORJİN SİVİLCE KREMİ İLE PÜRÜZSÜZ BİR CİLDE KAVUŞUN!

    • Bitki özlerinden oluşturulan Orjin Sivilce Kremi sivilce, siyah nokta gibi cilt problemlerini
    mükemmel bir şekilde iyileştirir. Sivilce ve siyah noktaların yeniden oluşmasının önüne geçer.
    • Sivilceleri etkin bir şekilde azaltır ve aşırı yağ üretimini engeller.
    • Cildi, sivilceyi oluşturan zararlı bakterilerden temizler.
    • Cildi derinlemesine etkileyerek berraklaştırır ve billur gibi bir cilde sahip olmanızı sağlar.
    • Cilt yüzeyindeki zararlı bakterileri derinlemesine temizleyerek cildi arındırır.

  17. #17 orjin yüzbakım seti
    February 25, 2011

    ORJİN KİL MASKESİ İLE
    CİLDİNİZİ DOĞAYLA BULUŞTURUN!

    Bazı ürünlerle tanışmak hayatınızı değiştirir.
    Orjin Kil Maskesi’de bunlardan biri.
    Tüm cilt tiplerine uygun olarak hazırlanmış yatıştırıcı bir maskedir. Organik maddeler içeren maskede, etkileri kanıtlanmış kil mineralleri kullanılmıştır. İçeriğindeki etken maddeler sayesinde cildin gözeneklerinde yerleşmiş kirleri bünyesine çekerek cildi temizler. Cildin doğal nem dengesini korur. Cilde sağlıklı bir görünüm kazandırır. Sadece yüzde değil, sırt, kol, dekolte gibi vücudun diğer bölümlerindeki sivilceler için de kullanılabilir.

  18. #18 dmab real
    February 25, 2011

    SH*THEADS

    atheistthinktank.net/thinktank/index.php?topic=9870

  19. #19 power ixir
    February 27, 2011

    According to article in the newspaper, BP has spent $93.4 million for ads from April to the end of July. Surely this makes jobs in the ad world, saves foundering newspapers, etc. The ad campaign is having some success in making people think better of BP. Additionally BP has furnished $89.5 million in grants to four gulf states to promote tourism. However, there are those who criticize the emphasis on “polishing the company’s image”.

  20. #20 altın çilek
    March 26, 2011

    Cilde sağlıklı bir görünüm kazandırır. Sadece yüzde değil, sırt, kol, dekolte gibi vücudun diğer bölümlerindeki sivilceler için de kullanılabilir.

  21. #21 dmabs
    May 29, 2011

    Sunday Sacrilege pz’s blaspheming head

    debunkingskeptics.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1756

  22. #22 v-boom
    June 7, 2011

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll drive a few readers over here, everybody should know what BP has done

  23. since Oz is often (and Mercola is always) highly critical of “mainstream medicine.” I really don’t understand his inclusion, and think it’s to the detriment of the rest of the campaign.

  24. #24 orjin krem
    June 14, 2011

    According to article in the newspaper, BP has spent $93.4 million for ads from April to the end of July. Surely this makes jobs in the ad world, saves foundering newspapers, etc. The ad campaign is having some success in making people think better of BP. Additionally BP has furnished $89.5 million in grants to four gulf states to promote tourism. However, there are those who criticize the emphasis on “polishing the company’s image

  25. #25 PEMBE MASKE
    June 15, 2011

    Özellikle son zamanların en popüler cilt yenileme ürünüdür. Pembe Maske bir çok ünlü isim tarafından da yoğun olarak kullanılmaktadır. Yüzdeki kırışıklıklar, sivilce ve sivilcelerin sebep olduğu deformasyonları gidermede kullanılan Pembe yüz maskesi ve inceltici, selülit giderici olarak kullanılan pembe vücut maskesi olmak üzere iki farklı ürün mevcuttur.

  26. gidiyorsun? Bu dahil etmek GQ için kendi araştırma layman-dostu sürüm (onların “asansör konuşma” açıklaması, örneğin) göndermek için her katılımcıya sormak için küçük bir şey olurdu.

    Son olarak – “bilim adamları” biri Dr Oz olduğunu. O orada ne yapıyor? Bir, ben zaten yeterince iyi bilinmektedir düşünürdüm; başka bir bilim adamı için bu noktada kaydetme neden? , Evet, ben İki aslında araştırma ve yayınlanan bitti biliyorum, ve Columbia Üniversitesi’nde öğretim üzerindedir. Fantastic. Aynı zamanda bile talk-show herkesin favori “alternatif” doc, Joseph Mercola, özellikli ve aşılar (aksi kanıt höyük rağmen) otizm ve alerji bir rol oynuyor olabilir nasıl ele ciddi bir woo seyyar satıcı, bulunuyor. Bu Oz genellikle (ve Mercola her zaman) so

  27. #27 CAPSİPLEX TÜRKİYE
    June 17, 2011

    tedir düşünürdüm; başka bir bilim adamı için bu noktada kaydetme neden? , Evet, ben İki aslında araştırma ve yayınlanan bitti biliyorum, ve Columbia Üniversitesi’nde öğretim üzerindedir. Fantastic…

  28. #28 thesis writing
    January 13, 2012

    It’s a cool theme about this topic. Guys are willing to have such high writing abilities. But they must purchase the dissertation layout recommended by the experienced dissertation service.

  29. #29 v-pills
    January 19, 2012

    It would have been a small thing to ask each participant to submit a layman-friendly version of their research (their “elevator talk” description, for example) for GQ to include.

  30. #30 my slimmer
    May 14, 2012

    i think what scares me is not only the comparison between the two but the spills that have occurred in between these two. In america we get the publicity of the spills in our country but the gigantic spills in other countries whose governments are not able to make demands on bp do not get cleaned up. the oil in the ocean still eventually effects our life and what we spend on fuels but the company has a lot less to worry about from a country in africa whose gov’t only exists because bp put them there.
    does anyone still remember ken saro wiwa??

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