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Catching Up To Good Sense
| Political Waves

Perhaps the Mercury retrograde has defined the last few weeks of frustration for me, although more likely that's the hook I hang my hat on because it's convenient. But blaming the Winged Messenger for systemic troubles would be like the lazy thinking that got us into this global emergency. As outlined here at Planet Waves, a potent brew of shifting planetary influence asks us to take responsibility for our actions, but we're lethargic. We're gripped with a sense of unease and confusion because what used to work efficiently has failed us, and as yet we're unable to pin down the cause or solution. Every snarl in circumstance or communication seems to produce new complications as fast as we try to untangle them. Nothing is simple and straightforward anymore. It feels as though humankind has gone fumble-fingered, trying to do brain surgery with a butter knife.

An obvious illustration would be the man-made disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. With some 42,000 gallons of oil erupting daily from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon rig, local, state and national agencies have joined volunteers attempting to minimize the impact of the spill on the fragile coastlines of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. California Governor Schwarzenegger has changed his mind about drilling off his coast now, seemingly aware for the first time of the potential hazard. As we're learning in the Gulf, the risk of drilling off the Pacific should have the approval of citizens in the entire region, including Canada and Mexico. Oil does not stay put. It crosses borders with the currents and tides.

Apparently missing the larger point, we focus primarily on how to stop a destruction of what we can see and utilize for our pleasure and profit. Those who are concerned about the ocean itself, for example, are out-shouted by those whose primary worry is for the loss of the seafood industry and drilling possibilities in Gulf waters. What about the ocean floor, that great undiscovered frontier about which we know so little? Capitalism to the rescue. It seems we are testing a new substance to break up the oil slick that threatens birds and sea creatures fouled by the surface oil. Essentially, this disaster has become a proving ground for a new mix of chemicals called 'dispersants' that keep the oil balls suspended in the water, to be consumed by bacteria that will eventually pass toxins up the food chain. The dispersants have not yet been approved for general use.

Although the Coast Guard reports that dispersant spraying seems to help, we don't know its larger impact. As federal officials weigh these first results, plans are being drawn to introduce the chemicals at the lowest depths of the spill site. Cynthia Sarthou, of the Gulf Restoration Network, worries it might prevent oil from coming to shore but force it to the ocean floor instead. According to Ms. Sarthou, "The environmental impact of that is totally unknown. It could end up killing everything at the bottom of the ocean." A policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife called it a giant experiment. "I'm not saying we shouldn't do it," said Richard Charter. "We have no good options." There's that butter knife again.

But what of the continuing spill, spewing crude like a broken spigot? They plan to try covering the multiple leaks with a massive dome, as illustrated in this video. A specially built 100-ton concrete-and-steel box will be lowered onto the spill site in an attempt to contain it. I trust its installers will pay more attention to the cementing operation than Halliburton did just days before this present disaster. Some say the dome looks a bit futuristic. I think it looks like a giant pustule that will be permanently fixed to the ocean floor, a hastily constructed bandaid to stop a calamitous rupture. We must hope that this does the trick, as British Petroleum executives told Congress this week that the leak could increase to as much as 60,000 barrels a day, more than 10 times the estimate of the current flow.

As I write, weather patterns have kept the 18,000-square-mile oil slick from reaching shore; by the time you read this, that may look different. Should the dome contain the spill, it will still be too late to stop the endangered sea turtle deaths already reported and will not alleviate the threat to the dolphin community in the Gulf, currently in its birthing cycle. Shrimpers estimate that it may take a decade to reestablish a thriving community in the area. Fishing fleets have been temporarily beached by the government, and tourism, a primary economic source for the five-state coastal region, is at a standstill. Fragile wetland ecosystems remain imperiled as activists hold their breath, waiting for the oil to make shore. As we wait and wonder, all you and I can do is pray that something positive will emerge from a petro-disaster of this magnitude. The string of events that produced this spill and its projected ramifications would take hours to tell. The scope is vast and everything is complicated these days, nothing is simple. If that's so, then perhaps we should take the hint that everything is connected and nothing exists in a vacuum. It might be logical and timely to prevent these kinds of occurrences rather than play catch-up with their consequences. But that's not the way of our culture.

As illustration, my daughter has an economical little Toyota that she adores. In the last few months, she has twice received notices of recall, the first for brake problems and the second for the infamous sticking gas pedal that has tarnished Toyota's brand and profit-margin. Driving the kids to school the other day, the car began to emit a high-pitched squeal. The Toyota dealership examined the car and reported that there was nothing they could do although the sound was the result of the recall repairs. They'd already received several similar reports but they were unprepared to respond to them. I advised my distressed daughter to hang in there, to smile and wave at those who stared when her car screamed by. If there are enough complaints, Toyota will be forced to respond with another recall: corporate catch-up just over the horizon.

To paraphrase Arianna Huffington, this nation has sustained a massive heart attack and needs a quadruple bypass and complete change of lifestyle. Granted, recovering from that kind of whole-body shutdown is no fun, big work and extremely unpopular, as prophetic (one-term) President Jimmy Carter discovered. But taking responsibility for life on this planet must not continue to be limited to fixing what we break. We are intelligent enough to foresee the inherent risks in much of what we do and protect against them, and this is the perfect time to do it. The public is finally awakening to the corporate culture that has pushed good sense over the cliff.

Climate change threatens our very existence but remains largely ignored. Corporate domination has created a mercenary, consumer nation, and many hide behind outdated notions of patriotism and exceptionalism in order to continue our self-serving, imperialistic mentality. Sustainable energy must become more benign to the planet if humankind is to continue, yet the goals of short-term profit still drive the political conversation. This is the challenge of evolving consciousness across the globe, no matter our political affiliations.

If wisdom is the result of painful experience, surely we're ready to make better choices. The cause of all this havoc must be examined and solutions redefined, or the game of short-term gain and long-term disability will remain as effective as handing out Big Macs and cigars in the cardiac unit. We all have to grow up sometime. An oil slick larger than Rhode Island headed for our beloved beaches should convince us that the time is now.

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