Thursday, June 3, 2010


Preface: it's late, and this is going to be a nonsensical rant, probably full of contradictions and painfully angsty pleas- but I can't sleep without writing this, if you want you can skip it, if not pardon any offensive language

This is a link to pictures of pelicans covered in oil. I thought about just putting one of the pictures at the top of my blog, but then I thought better. You deserve to decide if you want to see something that horrendous. I chose to look at these pictures. And it was one of those moments in life where you realize as it happens that what you're seeing is breaking this small piece inside of yourself and that there will never be a way to fix it as long as you live.

But here's the thing. I hope you look at those pictures. I'm glad I did. Glad seems like such an out of place to word right now. I guess I'm more resigned to the fact that I needed to see these pictures. They are soul evisceratingly sad. I will never ever be able to unsee them. I won't forget them. They will stay with me always and always make me horribly sad and angry when I think of them. But so be it.

Right after I looked at these pictures, I saw some online news stories about pundits criticizing President Obama for not appearing "angry" enough on TV. I also saw some news stories about reader ideas for punishments for BP executives. And suddenly I just wanted to scream, because in the face of this tragedy this kind of talk and commentary is just so much bullshit. It's bullshit on top of mounds of bullshit, and doesn't anyone ever get tired of hearing themselves talk? I've never realized until just this moment that sometimes there are no real adults in this world. Adult is an idea. It's a concept. But when it comes to something this big, it just feels like we're all still children.

I could care less if President Obama goes to the edge of the Gulf and lets out a primal scream to express his "anger." I could care less if BP executives were put on public trial. None of that will fix this. None of that will erase this. And yet we obsess about these things. In the face of what may be the biggest environmental catastrophe of our time, we talk about these inane, stupid little details like they matter, because we can't face up to the fact that when all the dust settles and history is written, the burden for this is on all of our shoulders. It's our fault in a million indirect little ways, for the leaders we've elected over the last decades, for not giving a shit about deep sea oil drilling until an explosion on an oil rig made it front page news. We talk about being "green" and we use our canvas grocery bags so we can sleep better at night, but when it comes to things that really matter we don't care. And I'm not excluding myself either. We, this collective we of humanity are trashing our planet every single day, and we make excuses and we blather on about the "science" behind global warming and we point to snowflakes as an excuse to continue on the way we've always continued. Let's buy some more SUVs and expand cities outward and let our pride and our stubbornness stand in the way of doing anything at all to stop this long slow slide.

So what will it take then? Is this enough? Will it take the corpse of the last mountain gorilla or a coastal city under water? Or will the pictures of these birds do for everyone what they've done for me? Will they break you and shame you and make you face the stark truth that this moment was always inevitable? I'm ashamed. We've lost shame somewhere along the way. We talk in circles until the shame fades away. But look at these pictures and try to feel anything but shame. Nothing will ever make this better, not a containment dome, not a junk shot, not a BP executive in jail, not President Obama letting a single, manly tear roll down his cheek in public. This oil spill will Lord willingly be plugged, but it won't fix anything.

We don't get to feel good about this. We don't get a happy ending or a heroic rescue. We don't get to pat ourselves on the back or ever, ever once, feel anything other than absolutely shitty and wrecked about what has unfolded in the Gulf. We can only hope that out of our sorrow and our deep and abiding shame, we start to finally do the painful work of changing ourselves and our way of life, so that it won't take another picture of a pelican dying a slow, miserable death to wake us up to the toll that is being paid by this earth for OUR actions.

1 comment:

C.Cadigan said...

Liz, that was very eloquently said. Ironically, I find it really promising that someone oustide of my "environmental school world" is just as upset and can see the larger picture. Maybe the tides are changing...(in more ways than one).

SELC is in the middle of filing several law suits (cenetered in my office) over the process that enabled many of these deep water rigs to slide through the cracks. Wish them luck. :) Check out this site: Slide number 12 horrifies me.

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