Om Sweet Om

Om Sweet Om


Will Top Kill work? Only if it goes deep enough.

posted by Vineet Chander

The good news: BP’s  procedure to plug the oil leak — ominously named “top kill” — seems to be working. The not-so-good news: new estimates show that the spill has already surpassed the notorious Exxon Valdez disaster. It is, officially now, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Is there a paradox here? We’re probably living in the most ecologically-sensitive time in history. From the pulpit to the podium, from the classroom to the boardroom– everyone is keenly aware, now more than ever, that we can no longer take a cavalier attitude towards the Earth and our treatment of her.

So why does something like the BP spill happen? How do we get here?

Over at Huff Po, my friend and fellow Hindu blogger Ramnath Subramanium thinks that the real problem is a glaring lack of responsibility from the top down:

The unfolding of the entire oil spill episode has brought to the
forefront a trail of irresponsible acts that BP has engaged in, not
unknowingly. And the schemes to arrest the flow are being put into
place without clearly assessing the long-term effects they will have on
the ecology. The scheme to contain the spill with a dome has failed,
and among the next steps, one idea being seriously considered is to
shoot garbage into the gaping hole to plug the gusher. The remedies
seem as irresponsible as the actions or the lack of those that led to
the oil spill in the first place. Statisticians from BP quote the
strength of the probability models that predict such leaks. According
to them, the probability of such leaks happening was one in ten million
rigs. That sounds very promising, sure enough, but the probability
models do a poor job of predicting the extent of the damage that will
be caused if a leak does happen.

Drawing on his reading of the Mahabharata, Ram insists that the real solution lies in “plugging the integrity leak” by investing time and resources into character development:   

The practical implementation of such a long-term solution is
undoubtedly challenging given the current economic and social system
that we feed our younger generation into, but the change can start
small. The important thing is to start. The broader details are
important and will unfold in time, but not without the strong and
earnest desire to implement such a system, which must be at the
forefront in the mind of our nation’s administrative machinery. Without
this essential training in character development, we will still produce
great corporations and powerful leaders, but we will still face equally
devastating actions that will have widespread repercussions on the
social and ecological fabric of this country, not to mention the world
at large. The problem goes beyond the BP rig leak, and no ethical
systems or probability models are foolproof to prevent such crises from
happening again and again purely due to lack of integrity from our
leaders and decision makers.

(Read the full post here.)

Lofty? Sure. Idealistic? Perhaps. But Ramnath is not alone in his sense that we need, desperately and urgently, to go deeper if we are going to hit at the root of this thing. Also writing on Huff Po, Katherine Jefferts Schori (Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church), suggests that

There is no place to go “away” from these consequences; there is no
ultimate escape on this planet. The effects at a distance may seem
minor or tolerable, but the cumulative effect is not. We are all
connected, we will all suffer the consequences of this tragic disaster
in the Gulf, and we must wake up and put a stop to the kind of robber
baron behavior we supposedly regulated out of existence a hundred years
ago. Our lives, and the liveliness of the entire planet, depend on it.

(Read the rest here.)

As tempting as might be to point fingers, the onus is on us. In the immortal words of Pogo, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

  
  



  • KM for Peace

    Excellent blog, powerful and so very true!
    Thank you,
    -Kristin

  • http://envirowonk.com/content/view/68/1/ H Stewart

    Check out the link listed above and below: http://envirowonk.com/content/view/68/1/
    How does this compare to your emphasis on US problems in the “Oil Spill” business. How about acknowledgeing that the US is not only not in the top 10, but is not even in the top 25 (yet).
    You US bashers give me a case of it.

  • dina

    i wonder if we have had any where near ten million oil rigs pumping from the bottom of the ocean. perhaps they assume only the specific problem with the gulf rig, and don’t consider all the other things that can go wrong. i disbelieve the probability assessment.
    so, exxon valdez was a tanker, and a horrible effect on the environment, now eclipsed by this current tragedy. and how many lesser catastrophes have we tolerated. it is simply wrong.
    we must protect our mother, the land that sustains us and all that is upon it. we’ve used enough of her oil. now let’s let it rest and use the sun and wind and water to give us energy.

  • dina

    h. stewart, especially for you
    –thank you for your link to envirowonk. what an eye-opener! i wasn’t aware of the extent of foolishness and incompetence throughout the world re. our global efforts to extract and deliver oil.
    further thoughts center in the value of keeping our own house clean:
    as i see it, no matter what others may do around the world, our first step is to move away from what destroys our selves, our spirits, and our immediate environment. once purged, we then can embrace what sustains us in a wholesome way. i see any discussion of tragedies in the Gulf, Exxon Valdez, or anywhere else in the US, not as US bashing, but rather as a process where we own what we do that is destructive . . . if we can see it, we can be moved to make amends.
    as a location in this vast system of many many galaxies, we are but one body.
    in this metaphor, if the US is an arm or a leg, and if we can keep it healthy, we will certainly increase the health of the whole . . . assuming, of course, that we collectively take care of the health of the heart, the mind, and other metaphorically essential organs.
    peace and thanx, d

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