Historic oil spill fails to produce gains for U.S. environmentalists
For environmentalists, the BP oil spill may be disproving the maxim that great tragedies produce great change.
Traditionally, American environmentalism wins its biggest victories after some important piece of American environment is poisoned, exterminated or set on fire. An oil spill and a burning river in 1969 led to new anti-pollution laws in the 1970s. The Exxon Valdez disaster helped create an Earth Day revival in 1990 and sparked a landmark clean-air law.
But this year, the worst oil spill in U.S. history -- and, before that, the worst coal-mining disaster in 40 years -- haven't put the same kind of drive into the debate over climate change and fossil-fuel energy.
File this for use the next time somebody tells you that the key to getting people fired up in this country is letting things go to hell so they can see for themselves how bad things have gotten.
It doesn't matter whether it's an otherworldly oilcano-style catastrophe, a gigantic explosion that kills dozens of workers that somehow prompts calls for even less regulation, the open acceptance of torture as an official practice, or wholesale electronic eavesdropping on domestic communications. As long as there are 31 flavors on the shelves and another season of American Idol coming, there's never going to be anything automatic about political passion. You're going to have to create it yourself, if that's what it takes to get you and your neighbors to hit the streets, vote, and generally do stuff.
Just a reminder.