photo by Truthout.org (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

Writer and activist Naomi Klein describes in a piece for the Guardian how an overconfident BP recklessly endangered the environment and human culture of the Gulf of Mexico, believing there to be ‘little risk’ of disaster. Even if a spill will to occur, BP believed, it would be minor and easily manageable.

Now that a real – and plainly unmanageable – disaster has actually happened, promises from BP boss Tony Hayward and US President Barack Obama that the Gulf will fully recover are unrealistic and being met with skepticism by Gulf residents.

It all sounded great. But for people whose livelihoods put them in intimate contact with the delicate chemistry of the wetlands, it also sounded completely ridiculous, painfully so. Once the oil coats the base of the marsh grass, as it had already done just a few miles from here, no miracle machine or chemical concoction could safely get it out. You can skim oil off the surface of open water, and you can rake it off a sandy beach, but an oiled marsh just sits there, slowly dying. The larvae of countless species for which the marsh is a spawning ground – shrimp, crab, oysters and fin fish – will be poisoned.

–Naomi Klein

Klein juxtaposes the modern, science-driven developed world’s conceptual attitude of man’s mastery over nature against ancient European and contemporary indigenous cultures that revere the natural world – and are wary of its power. But shouldn’t a truly science-driven culture be more aware and cautious of the dangers associated with drilling, mining, polluting and generally screwing with the Earth? Well not under extreme capitalism, in which the moneymen call the shots.

This Gulf coast crisis is about many things – corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it’s about this: our culture’s excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us. But as the BP disaster has revealed, nature is always more unpredictable than the most sophisticated mathematical and geological models imagine.

–Naomi Klein

Will big oil and the fossil fuel industry really learn from disaster in the Gulf? More importantly, will we as a society learn not to simply trust that large corporations have our best interest at heart?

Read Naomi Klein’s entire piece, entitled ‘Gulf oil spill: A hole in the world’, in the Guardian.

Also watch this documentary film by the Al Jazeera English program ‘Fault Lines’ for which Klein was a consultant. The Fault Lines crew visited the Gulf coast and looked at big oil’s history and effects on the region.

Fault Lines – In Deep Water: A Way of Life in Peril

by Graham Land

Additional resources:

Naomi Klein website