Economics, Philosophy, and Reality

I’m astounded that BP’s oil slick is causing such little political discussion on the one side, and that the discussion seems to be about economics/capitalism/the rights of nations on the other side.

I guess new-politician-on-the-block Rand Paul said Obama was “unpatriotic” for being upset about the oil spill. I guess the Louisana folks aren’t changing their Shrimp and Petroleum festival. I guess Senators and Congresspeople are saying that this won’t — or shouldn’t — effect the idea that offshore oil drilling is still “generally a good concept” because it’s good for America’s political interests.   That’s all I hear, pretty much, except for reports on how BP and others can’t control this thing.

I like politics and philosophy as much as the next guy — maybe more than most — but there comes a point when reality gets in the way.  That point, it seems to me, is death of an ecosphere.  The only equivalent catastrophes I can think of are Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and I guess the Exxon Valdez.

If people had said “Nuclear power was still a good idea for Communism” even though Chernobyl happened, we would have thought they were just “stupidly justifying their way of life”, a way of life that we vehemently disagree with, for the most part.

When Three Mile Island happened, George Will wrote a piece for either Time or Newsweek that said “See, the fail-safes worked. Nuclear power is a good idea”. Nobody really bought the argument, though, because the potential devastation that could happened put enough of a scare into us that nothing new was even planned to be built here for years. That’s now changing with this administration’s policies, and I personally am not happy about it, but at least we thought long and hard about it.

When the Exxon Valdez disaster happened, people were plenty upset and Exxon looked really bad for awhile, and that catastrophe will long be remembered in our history. And even though it was generally seen as one corporation’s problem,  ships were re-designed to have two hulls in case this ever happened again.  In short, we learned something from the accident.

I don’t hear anything like a questioning about this oil rig thing.  Nobody is saying “maybe we shouldn’t be dependent on oil”, like people thought about nukes after Chernobyl. Nobody is saying, “destroying a section of the world makes the prospect of oil drilling seem like a bad idea” like we did after Three Mile Island. Nobody is saying “BP is bad” or “How can we make sure this never happens again?” like we did after the Exxon Valdez. In the rush to prevent people from getting all emotional about the offshore oil rig and spill, we have relied on philosophy and economics.  In the language of therapy, we have gone “to our heads” to avoid going “to our hearts” or our “guts”.  We call this denial or rationalization where I’m from and it doesn’t serve us well.

The land around Chernobyl will never be right again. The people who live nearby will be effected by the devastation to the environment for as long as we can imagine.  Birth defects, loss of usable soil, cancer, etc are the results of what happened.  That’s the reality of the situation and no amount of philosophy or economics will change that. That reality sounds the buzzer on the philosophy game. (BUZZER Sound) Thanks for playing!

I don’t know much about ecology really at all. I’m not even particularly good at recycling.  I know about solar power and wind power, but I don’t know basics like wind and air and plants and the rain forest.  Frankly, they don’t interest me.  They’re not my “thing”. But if we worry about every square foot of the rain forest and its effect 0n the rest of the world, I have to think that an oil spill you can see from space can’t be all that good for any of us.  We need to let the reality of this thing sink in. We need to think about what we’re doing to ourselves, and how much of this is irreversable.  We need to realize that another part of our planet is lost (if, in fact, it is), that it’s not coming back (if it’s not), and we need to think about what we do now that it has (ditto).

Large scale death — of people, of a planet, of whatever — caused by human beings already tells us that our “higher self” isn’t working very well.  To rely on it now is a mistake.  Let’s go back to basics like survival about the oil rig dilemma. Then, if we’re lucky, and there’s still a planet for us to live on, we can think about economics, politics, and all those other fun games we so like.

Peace,

John

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