Sunday, June 27, 2010

The polluting spill... tapping into the unnatural and its financial consequences

Just in case we were not fully steeped in the mire of human catastrophe with the undoing of our financial fictions, an oil company taps wrecklessly into a substrate that has been brewing a concoction burned to create heat, run our vehicles, factories etc and literally blows its top. In the process, the oil company may also have blown itself financially. It is small wonder that an exercise as unnatural, 'artificial', human-made as drilling thousands of feet to reach the muck that is also known as "black gold" causes the very human-made reactive phenomenon of lawsuits to arise. I am speaking of the BP oil spill, and referring now to the lawsuit filed by the New York Pension fund against BP for investment losses.(1.)
Tragedy is not profitable for almost anyone (I'm excluding those sent in to clean up), and a fiasco like this one is bound to rack up damages not only in favor of investors sustaining them, but nature, tourists, fisherfolk, millions of ordinary people who flock to the beauty of the Carribbean throughout the year. All of these are also investors, perhaps the more innocent ones since they did not necessarily seek to make money from the extraction that went awry.

Our planet has evolved over 4.6 billion years (according to various radiometric dating techniques) and its layers of evolution hold great mysteries stored like a library of information about what came before us and how it was assimilated into the mother from which it sprang. The BP oil spill is an interesting interchange of law and science/nature (not trying to conflate science with nature here, just suggesting that our study of nature these days veers to the scientific). On the scientific side, BP like other oil companies has been enabled by technology, also developed through scientific study, to extract part of the evolutionary core of our planet, part of the common patrimony of all humanity, I believe, for its own gain.

What is oil?

"In the leading theory, dead organic material accumulates on the bottom of oceans, riverbeds or swamps, mixing with mud and sand. Over time, more sediment piles on top and the resulting heat and pressure transforms the organic layer into a dark and waxy substance known as kerogen. Left alone, the kerogen molecules eventually crack, breaking up into shorter and lighter molecules composed almost solely of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Depending on how liquid or gaseous this mixture is, it will turn into either petroleum or natural gas. So how long does this process take? Scientists aren't really sure, but they figure it's probably on the order of hundreds of thousands." (

Much of what this earth has made, it has the power to unmake even while exploiting us as its instrument. Certainly, this substance and the layers that sit beneath us all, belong to all of us and have done so for thousands of years as the substance was percolating into its current state. What is more, the extraction subtracts a layer from under all of us. And when one of us messes up, it hurts all of us. It is for this reason, this universal impact caused by the reckless use of technology for financial profits that do their own kind of damage, such tragedy must exact steep financial and other penalties. Complete sanitation of the area impacted, specific performance restoring this area and space into its original magnificence, the people whose day to day lives and livelihoods are debilitated also made whole, perhaps even the fish and ocean life can be replanted to replace what has been lost.

For those of us not yet convinced that polar caps are melting and the need for green solutions to our burgeoning energy needs is urgent, we have found another reason to embark upon clean solutions. There is nothing like a dirty oil spill to help us understand that clean renewable resources like the wind and sun (even if initially expensive) are far more cost-effective in the long run. They ensure at least some possibility that our grand children will see an earth remotely resembling the one we have enjoyed. Cleaning up is necessary not only in the financial realm where a new ethic of clean hands must be regulated and sought, a clean earth fueled by clean energy must source our light!