Gulf oil spill: A hole in the world

Naomi Klein, The Guardian
Everyone gathered for the town hall meeting had been repeatedly instructed to show civility to the gentlemen from BP and the federal government. These fine folks had made time in their busy schedules to come to a high school gymnasium on a Tuesday night in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, one of many coastal communities where brown poison was slithering through the marshes, part of what has come to be described as the largest environmental disaster in US history.

“Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to,” the chair of the meeting pleaded one last time before opening the floor for questions.

And for a while the crowd, mostly made up of fishing families, showed remarkable restraint. They listened patiently to Larry Thomas, a genial BP public relations flack, as he told them that he was committed to “doing better” to process their claims for lost revenue – then passed all the details off to a markedly less friendly subcontractor. They heard out the suit from the Environmental Protection Agency as he informed them that, contrary to what they have read about the lack of testing and the product being banned in Britain, the chemical dispersant being sprayed on the oil in massive quantities was really perfectly safe.

But patience started running out by the third time Ed Stanton, a coast guard captain, took to the podium to reassure them that “the coast guard intends to make sure that BP cleans it up”…
(19 June 2010)

The Dead Hand of Ronald Reagan Rises in the Gulf

Dave Lindorff, ThisCan’
As the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew out ever more toxic oil and methane into the sea, and as floating toxic sludge, by the millions of gallons, starts destroying the wetlands across the American Southeast, the dead hand of President Ronald Reagan is at work, making sure nothing is done to prevent yet another such disaster from occurring.

The name of that dead hand is Martin Leach-Cross Feldman, a federal judge in Louisiana, a part of the notoriously right-wing Fifth Circuit.

Reagan Rises in the Gulf

Feldman, appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan and confirmed by the Republican-led Senate in 1983, has been a craven supporter of corporations over the public interest for years. In the wake of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, for example, the judge ruled against homeowners who tried to bring a racketeering case against Clipper Estates, the corporate owner of their housing development, claiming that the company had stolen money it collected from them allegedly for repairs, for the owner’s personal use. Feldman ruled that homeowners had no standing to sue.

Now, using classic Reaganesque logic (remember our senile ex-president’s mocking argument to environmentalist that because trees release carbon dioxide at night, they must be “polluters”?), Judge Feldman has issued a temporary restraining order against the White House’s six-month freeze on offshore drilling. His rationale for overturning the moratorium on drilling: The government hadn’t provided an adequate justification for it…
(X June 2010)

Here’s another fine mess

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
What we can’t seem to accept is that the oil is leaking and we can’t stop it. This doesn’t fit the modern narrative in which we can fix anything if we get organized and throw enough money at it. An earthquake devastates Haiti? The world rushes to its aid. A tsunami wreaks havoc? Emergency teams descend. Swine flu? We get inoculated. The economy collapses? Bail it out.

This pattern has become embedded in cable news. First, the story is “Breaking News.” Then it’s assigned a catch-phrase, a graphic, maybe even its own theme song. Then comes an airplane crash, a hurricane or forest fire to change the subject. We mourn, we repair, we prevent, we blame, we pass laws, we raise standards, we know the drill.

But the oil keeps leaking. We learn it will leak for weeks, a month, two months, four months. It is leaking 10,000 barrels a day, 20,000, 40,000, 60,000. British Petroleum lowers a pipe to drain oil from the leak. Some oil does drain, but the latest news suggests the pipe may have “exacerbated” the situation. “Exacerbated” means “made it worse.” Corporate spokesmen love Latinate words that make them sound as if they know what they’re talking about.

I have no idea what to do about the Spill. Do you? Does anybody? We keep hearing that an enormous explosion could shift so much of the ocean floor that the leak would be plugged. That sounds like the system we used as kids to contain garden hose floods in a sandbox…
(16 June 2010)

The Journey from Anger to Anguish, responding to eco-cide

Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth to Power
n some spiritual and psychological circles we often hear unambiguous proscriptions against the emotion of anger. However, in many indigenous traditions, anger is not experienced with the same suspicion one finds in Western psycho-spiritual circles. While ancient teachings regarding anger do not condone aggression, they do not unequivocally assume that feeling the emotion of anger will lead to hostility or violence. In fact, they tend to revere anger as an innate human emotion which may be utilized on behalf of the earth community without inflicting harm. Ancient teachings often include practices for “uploading” the raw emotion of anger to higher chakras or physiological energy centers on behalf of preserving boundaries or protecting the innocent-both of which are characteristics of the non-aggressive warrior.

Anger is one of the Five Stages of Grief articulated by the death and dying researcher, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. As I noted in Sacred Demise, in the context of those stages, anger shows up in reaction to a loss. First we feel shock and denial, then move into anger which may include frustration, anxiety, irritation, embarrassment, and shame. Subsequently, we move into depression and grief, followed by bargaining, then acceptance and re-investment in our lives. As Kubler-Ross emphasizes, none of the stages are neatly detached from the others. We tend to move through them fluidly, with each stage somewhat blurring into the next stage or containing remnants of the last one.

In the process of preparing emotionally to navigate the coming chaos, it is crucial to examine each stage of grief, to note where we have been in the process, to look at where we are in the moment, and to honor each emotion along the way. Many people today are stuck in anger because they have not allowed themselves to move through it into mindful grieving. In fact, I believe that the United States, and many nations throughout the world are currently mired in anger. In 2009, author and spiritual teacher Caroline Myss, stated in her article “An Epidemic of Global Anger”: “We are a community of nations on fire with anger. And we are getting angrier by the day. Whether we look at the increase in uprisings occurring around the world or at the escalating tension brewing in America, what is becoming more apparent is that we are witnessing a rapidly increasing rate of global anger, so much so that it qualifies as an epidemic.”…
(27 June 2010)

Rio plus 20

Juliet Schor, plenitude the blog
Nearly twenty years ago, the world came together in Rio and recognized the urgency of changing our destructive patterns of consumption and production. George H.W. Bush famously declared (or didn’t, there’s some debate about that) that “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.” But he was forced to attend Rio, after months of stonewalling. And the formulation that came out of Rio remains relevant today–the South will reduce its population growth and the North will reduce its consumption impact. The latter hasn’t happened, for the most part. The footprint of the North has continued to increase, with the United States being the most profligate with the earth’s precious resources and in terms of carbon footprint.

Now we’re approaching Rio + 20. It’s an important opportunity to revisit the failures of these twenty years, and to re-direct this debate in productive ways. The global North must get its act together. As the wealthy countries we can afford to stop de-stabilizing the climate, destroying habitat and de-fouling the oceans. A group of (mostly) economists came together in May to work on an intervention to influence the preparatory meetings and the conversation in the run up to Rio. There were about 20 of us, including some very distinguished and influential people (These include Ashok Khosla, Ernst von Weiszacker, Stephen Marglin, Robert Costanza, Gus Speth, and many others). The first consensus statement we produced is now available for general consumption, and I wanted to share it with you. A key breakthrough here is that a group of economists are questioning the feasibility and wisdom of further growth in the wealthy countries.

It’s not too long, so please take a look. Your reactions will be most appreciated. If you do like it, please circulate widely.
(May 2010)