THERE ARE SIMPLY NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE MY FEELINGS OF ANGER AND FRUSTRATION IN CONNECTION WITH THE BP GULF COAST DISASTER. Appalled might come close. Outraged even closer. For this man-made calamity was long foretold, it was long announced, and any person of average education and intelligence could have acquired the facts about the situation and arrived at the obvious conclusions. And done something. But little was done, because lacking organizations to mobilize political action, lacking real representation, most Americans are essentially helpless in these situations. Perennially blindsided by a system that automaticaly engenders such tragedies. So now we witness an event that marks a turning point in the degree of lethality triggered by human action on this helpless planet, the ultimate mother and home we and other creatures will ever have. Please do not confuse my words with what some enemies of environmental protection deride as "tree-hugging" sentimentality. Those are the simple facts, and they're impeccably argued in Joel Kovel's must-read THE ENEMY OF NATURE, an indispensable tool for anyone seeking answers to the ecological crisis and the path toward ecosocialism. (For a full discussion on this topic, check out Capitalism on a Collision Course with nature
BP's oil blowout in the Gulf Coast is a tragedy of truly incalculable dimensions, in all likelihood a far more severe reminder than the Exxon Valdez of humanity's malignant connection with oil. The global corporate class --which has effectively blocked and coopted humanity's advance toward a more democratic and probably "ecofriendlier" world for many decades--had ample warning about the high probability and ecological cost of its short-term profit policies. Mostly unreported or downplayed by the corporate media, which every day that passes lengthens its record of complicity in its masters' crimes (and I'm not even thinking here of Fox News, which is by design a criminal enterprise), the oil industry has seen thousands of accidents injurious to the environment just in the last quarter century. Many of these in the Gulf Coast (there have been offshore rigs in salt water since 1896, see footnote below), on platforms similar to BP's Deepwater Horizon, which now threatens to wipe out a huge and critical ecosystem in a single blow. How could anything so despicable, affecting at least four states, the health of the world's oceans, countless animals, and precious swamplands, happen so easily? The short answer that few want to hear is that with this incident the Gulf Coast was at last predictably sacrificed to capitalism on the scaffolding of political chicanery it has erected over many decades to hide its pestilential control of all political institutions in America. It was bound to happen. As far as the Earth is concerned, a business firm operating in the merry Reaganesque/Thatcherite universe of unregulated capitalism is an insidious cancer engaged in obsessive expansion till its host collapses. And harbor no illusions: regulated capitalism can only delay the inevitable, for even under "best behaviour" a capitalist entity that indulges its central defining obsession to grow continually at all costs in a very finite and increasingly fragile planet is clearly on a collision course with nature.
In this context, Sarah Palin's idiotic and jarring chant, "Drill, Baby, Drill" attains a new level of imbecility: criminal imbecility. But revolting as Palin is, she's only a symptom, a front, for an antisocial system of governance which, given the undeniable interconnections, must include the media establishment. The rhetoric may occasionally diverge, but the congruency of purpose speaks for itself. Only recently Barack Obama, using basically the same spurious arguments as Palin and her cohorts ("energy independence," "national security", "jobs that can't be outsourced") gave the green light to further offshore drilling in several areas of the US continental shelf, including extremely fragile areas in Northern Alaska. While many Americans saw this as an outrage, another instance in Obama's lengthening list of betrayals of the public interest (duly wrapped in excellent demagogy, of course), it was to be expected. Meanwhile, little protest was seen or heard on the media, in part due to the "free press" abject subservience to power, and, also as a result of the environmental movement's alarming co-optation and bureaucratization at the hands of the same corporate class. Thus, by the same unwritten process of exclusion by which true critics of the American "way of governing" have been silenced for generations, what voices were mustered to speak "for the movement" were those sure to represent the most mainstream and least confrontational viewpoints, and not the radical critics, precisely the ones the public desperately needs to hear.
Being the most rabidly capitalistic, the Anglo-American business class and its political allies bears the most responsibility for this tragedy. Domestically, and for generations now, administration after administration has dragged its feet in terms of decisive environmental protection and restoration, when not actively behaving as a pimp handing over the nation's natural assets to the busines suits for what amounts in most cases to a pittance. (An unremarqued aspect of mainstream political life in these United States is how cheap American politicians really are. Firms with untold billions in their coffers can often buy Congressional and White House influence for a few thousand dollars, the services of a call girl or a trinket, or sums that are cigarette money around their boardrooms. When it comes to buying whores—and I mean no disrespect to real working girls who ply a risky and underappreciated trade— the American political system offers the world's best bargains). So, unlike Katrina, an event clearly well outside our ability to control, the truly outrageous part of the Gulf Coast disaster is that, as mentioned earlier, it was caused by deliberate political choices, from Reagan and Bush's complete abandonment of the environment to the tender mercies of the corporate class, to the limp-wrist protections advanced by the likes of Clinton. At the end of the day we need to admit to ourselves that the technology was or could have been there, if the nation had committed itself to a non-hydrocarbon regime. Surely if we could put a man on the moon, we could muster the resources and know-how to make the necessary breakthroughs in energy design, conversion and implementation for a new energy protocol, including the development of a spanking new infrastructure for alternative fuels distribution. (This alone would have energized the economy through the creation of millions of non-exportable jobs.) In addition, a vigorous government program to develop and adopt strong energy efficiency standards (the CAFE standards continue to be ludicrous in their timidity and overall ineffectiveness, logical when you allow industry to set up the goals) would have spared the biosphere enormous punishment in all areas of public and private use.
All the above are pretty obvious proposals, requiring little specialized expertise, only honesty and seriousness of purpose. But, as it so often happens when a government cannot implement the most natural solutions (remember the healthcare "reform" imbroglio) and must bend over backward to accommodate the toxic interests of a puny segment of the population, little was done, and the crisis is upon us.
The highjacking of the American government by the plutocracy and its myriad agents prevents at this point any meaningful redress of grievances via the prescribed rules of democracy. The fix is in and no real solutions are to be contemplated in earnest (again the specter of the scandalously flawed healthcare "reform" and Cop-15 come to mind; see, for example "Confidential document reveals Obama's hardline climate talk strategy"). With a lot of deliberate help from the Right, which has funded the greatest and smoothest propaganda campaign in the history of modern times, a battle of communications they have largely won (see SUICIDE BY REGRESSIVISM, for example) the US has finally become a formal democracy. And, like layers of a rotting mask, the true face of the system is emerging. Katrina showed the racist underpinnings of the highest echelons of power. The recent mining disasters gave us further proof that corporations continue to play with the workers' lives with virtual impunity. And the Exxon Valdez and now the BP oil disaster reminds us of the criminal indifference in which the environment is held by the same interests. Clearly action is required, but action is NOT going to come from the formal quarters, for they are not the cure, they're the disease. Born if nothing else of sheer revulsion, a citizens' movement has to take off in this nation, a movement capable of generating instruments of class and environmental self-defense, like a new party, and new electoral and non-electoral strategies. A movement capable of seeing clearly who is a friend and who is not, and fully capable of discerning who's the real enemy. This takes serious dedication to seeking mind-liberating information, and then figuring out viable courses of action. Whatever you do, make your effort count. Only deepening your knowledge of Americal political reality can facilitate fruitful work to accomplish real change.
PS/ As argued above, the obsession with growth and short-term profits combined with the complete corruption of the political system have finally rendered the environment defenseless against the worst excesses of the plundering corporate class. Meanwhile, the environmental movement —and the public at large—largely co-opted and in disarray, seem overwhelmed by the enormousness of the assault. Professor (and former Green Party candidate) Joel Kovel's masterful analysis of this topic, THE ENEMY OF NATURE, is essential to all independent and left activists wishing to make a tangible contribution to this struggle. I quote from him:
"The environmental news service I use to keep abreast of developments each day gamely posts a notice calling upon the viewer to “Don’t miss the link to today’s good news.”2 The findings are a puerile mish-mash of local clean-up efforts, greenwashings of one kind or another, the hucksterings of green capitalists, various techno-fixes, and the noises made by governmental agencies. Yes, there are definite victories along the way, all local and partial, and almost all the result of grassroots effort to bring to bay one corporate intrusion or another. But the large-scale news is virtually all bad, and recounts the steady, albeit fitful and non-linear, disintegration of the planetary ecology. Watch China slide toward ruin and pull the world along with it; watch the coral reefs decay, the polar bears drown, the Indian farmers kill themselves by drinking pesticides, the honeybees fail to come back to their hives, our bodily fluids fill up with unholy effluents as the cancers break out all over despite medical miracles without end, the Niger River delta burn as it destroys the lungs of little children . . . and of course do not miss the inexorability of global warming."
Click here to read Kovel's compelling introduction to his book.