Om Sweet Om

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.”


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