More Fallout From the Spill

The air is heavy and cool with June fog that’s layered in along the coastline. Buster and I wander early before the dog police arrive to ticket us off the local sands. Small waves break the silence of the morning, and a tidal surge gently rolls over the reefs between Brooks and Cress streets.

Even with the gray skies, I know that blue-green waters wait only for the sun to peak through the clouds to reveal themselves. A few fish dart; a pair of dolphin frolics.

I stop and ponder the beauty around me. A tear snakes down my cheek. What is this? Why this sadness?

Ah … this is the Gulf of Mexico echoing through my thoughts. This is the juxtaposition of a rich marine life before me and the specter of dead seas a few thousand miles away.

It could be us, I think. This could be Santa Barbara all over again, or sludge from a newly crafted well born from the recently released (and temporarily rescinded) federal drilling tracts.

Why does it actually take a disaster of the blown well of Deepwater Horizon to shake us from our somnambulistic sleep? With each turn of our technology, we continue to reveal ourselves as poor caretakers of our home planet. Rather than join with the Earth’s resources and live in planetary harmony, we dig, we drill, we slash, we burn … we consume. We foul the air, poison the waters, scar the land, and imagine that magically that the Earth will heal itself and continue to provide for us.

Maybe BP has finally ripped the veil off our ignorance. Our continued sucking of petroleum from the guts of the Earth is not only folly — it is a limited resource — it’s just plain stupid.

Oil was not meant to spew from the earth with the power and magnitude of the current spill. Oil drizzles. It oozes. Mostly, it’s content in its deep underground wells, sleeping if you will, as it has for eons.

The consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are of such great magnitude that they cannot as yet be measured. The full weight of destruction to habitat, fisheries, marine life, migratory waterfowl will overwhelm our best estimates.

Scientists are scrambling to establish numbers, but there is nothing historical with which to compare this disaster. Out-of-control oil gushing from below 5,000 feet at the rate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day times 44 days and counting. Frightening reports of no viable solution until August chill the most optimistic of environmentalists.

That BP was warned it was drilling too fast and did not have proper safeguards will soon be old news. They’ll bury that in some corporate report, pay fines and continue to drill someplace else — with assurances, of course — that they have solved all the problems associated with this blown-out well.

We do have short memories. We still drive our cars, we ride in our airplanes, and we are hooked — addicted — to petroleum. If BP is to blame, so are we. Until we commit to full deployment of alternate energy sources, we will continue to experience similar disasters.

Tuesday is World Oceans Day. It should be a day of celebration, but with BP’s leaking well still out of control, it feels more like a day of mourning.

I think we forget how dependent we are upon the seas. The oceans control our climate, make our planet habitable, spawn the storms that cross our arid lands as rain, feeding our crops. The seas provide food, from crustaceans to deep-water swordfish, tunas, algae and seaweed. We sail on the waters, ride surfboards, swim and paddle.

A small cadre of organizations, such as the Ocean Project, the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Surfrider, the Ocean Foundation, the Monterey Aquarium, the Center for Coastal Studies and the Laguna Ocean Foundation work tirelessly to educate, protect and nourish our ocean resources. It seems, that they — and us — can use all the help that they can get.

It’s easy to marginalize the Gulf of Mexico because it is far away. This is not to reduce the impact or the horror, but merely to recognize that the spill is not on “my” beach. That “my” dolphins are not washing ashore covered in black slime. That “my” pelicans are diving in clear waters and catching live un-oiled fish.

This upcoming Ocean Day — and let’s just make it Ocean Week — why not do something special for the waters? My friend Wallace J. Nichols has suggested, “Practice random acts of ocean kindness.” Now, more than ever, it is the time to be educated and involved.

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