Garland Robinette on Louisiana and the Deepwater Horizon Blowout and the Rest of the Country

Posted: May 26th, 2010 by: h2

Here’s an interesting view from Louisiana. This guy makes a lot of very good points, and I’m glad to see him mention the plume of dead zone that is the direct result of nitrate fertilizers creating vast algae blooms at the mouth of the Mississippi river, along with the current oil spill. He covers some pretty good material from the current best understanding of the process of oversights and errors that may have led to this blowout.

He also, quite correctly, notes both Democrats and Republcans (demadon’ts and republican’ts as he amusingly labels them) are about equal in their actions as far as reality is concerned re Louisiana. He doesn’t mention the corporatism that is creeping through our society like its own monster version of that spreading oil slick down there though, but then again, once normal regular people start talking about that, well, we might actually be getting ready for real, non-symbolic changes to come about.

I’m glad this guy connects some of the dots, noting that the Gulf provides about 30% of current US oil production, or 15% or so of current US consumption (we only produce about 50% of our oil. It was 40% prior to the 2008 collapse, now we consume about 2 million barrels a day less). In other words, if you don’t like this stuff, stop consuming the oil. And that is the ground of any real change, changing your behavior, changing the rules.

Also make sure to take a look at today’s top kill thread to see the progress of the hoped for top kill of the main blowout. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

If you want to know what Louisianians are thinking right now, then listen to this Garland Robinette clip.

And yes, no matter what feel-good types will tell you, consuming less and less oil means things will get less and less ‘convenient’, you will have to slow down, step off the instantaneous gratification wagon and start living like we’ve pretty much always lived.

Trains and other mass transit can help smooth things on that readjustment phase, but you’ll have to accept that private industry isn’t going to be building or maintaining that infrastructure, just like it doesn’t maintain or build most of our road system, dams, or other large scale infrastructure. And nuclear isn’t particularly economically viable either, which is why its virtually always subsidized by the government.

Here’s a little factoid for you nuke nuts: the US consumes I believe about 55 million pounds of uranium a year, but produces only a few million. That’s not for want of trying, we’ve left toxic mountains of uranium ore tailings across the US, but we just can’t mine enough because, as with everything else increasingly, the quality of the ores are simply going down. This means we need to mine more ore to get the same quantity.

That’s why we’re in deepwater Gulf of Mexico, it’s why they are in deepwater, pirate ridden, offshore Nigeria, and it’s why we’re forced to use something very much like asphalt (tar sands) from Canada/Venezuela to try to squeeze out a few more million barrels per day production.

So the time for change is definitely now, it’s really not that important why this blowout happened, my favorite analogy to try to explain it to people is this: say you decided driving through town at high speed is a good way to get to work faster from the suburbs.

Every year, you speed up a bit more, stop at a few less stop signs, run a few more red lights. You might or might not be keeping your car in great shape, maybe one month you skip a brake check, money was tight, maybe another you think, well, last month I was averaging 45 mph through town, why not step it up to 50?

As your risks increase, the odds of some combination of events happening to create a truly catastrophic failure also rise. But you could not call the eventual crash you would have an accident, no matter what the cause, could be bad road, a kid walking out in front of you, your breaks failing, you avoiding a cop, whatever, eventually you will crash. That crash was inevitable, at some point some part of the system would fail. Might be a combination of events, not checking the brakes, being in a hurry that morning for a meeting, a pothole in the road that just appeared, then bang.

But this is NOT an accident. Deepwater Horizon is also not an accident. It is the predictable outcome of humans engaging in human activities that are extremely complex. This doesn’t mean these activities can’t be done well 99+% of the time, it simply means that in some company, or some government, some set of circumstances is bound to arrive that leads to the failure of the system. It was the in Chernobyl, 3-Mile Island, the Ixtac oil blowout in the the Mexican part of the Gulf of Mexico, the recent coal mine collapse, etc.

The real solution is stepping back and admitting that this complexity level means we have hit the edges of the limits, and that there is nothing but a deep water canyon, uninhabitable in its depths, beyond those edges. The only wise and rational thing is to step back from this edge and re-evaluate.

But that means a real change. A real rediscovery of human values, social values, that do not derive from television, from mass media, from corporate entities whose primary purpose is extraction of value from the social body they embed themselves in.

I don’t see BP as particularly evil, they are just a cog in the machine of keeping our system running. They are stuck in a trap like the rest of us.o They have to generate profit, grow, to exist, so they do what they need to do in order to achieve that aim. The US people and government want to drive around, go shopping, max out their credit cards, buy houses they can’t afford, and they provide the market and support for such dangerous, risky, activities. And in order to grow, to find new oil, to ‘drill baby drill’, they are going where the oil is, the only real places new supplies can be found. Dangerous, risky, phenomenally complicated, more difficult environments than outer space when you consider the massive pressures involved.

We shouldn’t be doing this, but we are, and we are doing it because man is NOT, I repeat NOT, a rational animal. We can use reason to do things, like figure out how to drill a deep sea well, figure out how to try to stop it if it blows out, but we cannot rationally generate any plan for ourselves in terms of long term direction, values, etc. This is outside the bounds of reason, it’s just asking too much of it. If we were rational, we would never have even started the guaranteed to fail, unsustainable, project of industrialism and growth. There are, as Heraclites noted thousands of years ago, guidelines outside of us, but those have to be heeded, and we aren’t heeding them.

You don’t actually need to ask how this will all end, it will end when we stop expanding, and start questioning and start supporting true, not verbal, change. This would probably require seriously altering parts of the social contract, dis-allowing corporate personhood, lowering risks the society as a whole will tolerate, refusal to socialize risk and privatize profit, and much, much more. All are doable by the way, there’s nothing stopping us except for habit and inertia.

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