The Problem with Sandcastles
While many, myself included appreciate that the Macondo Well is “effectively dead,” considering the claims that no oil has been leaking from the site since mid-July it is a bit anti-climactic. Many bloggers, myself included have been far more focused on the cleanup activities or lack thereof, the oil still washing up on the beaches and permeating the Gulf, the dying sea life, the increasing cases of people getting sick and finally the bullshit being spewed by BP and government agencies or boards of whatever as they try to present this situation in a much sunnier light.
BP and the Obama Administration know very well that the people in the Gulf Coast understand how bad this situation still is; it is the rest of the country they are playing for and this is why last evening, while watching the Sunday night football game between teams from New York and Indianapolis from my apartment in the Midwest, I was being inundated with commercials for British Petroleum intending to show their commitment to people, to beaches, to “making things right.”
Being someone who follows closely the events on the Gulf, the ads were almost enough for me to break the television screen, but for a lot of people who once did follow the story and stopped, or never really did at all, these commercials would handily serve as reasons for them to go about their lives and just assume that the situation in the Gulf of Mexico is being handled.
And this is the problem…all these misleading signals to the country.
The well is dead. Reparations are (kind of) being made. Thad Allen will be stepping down October 1st, not coincidentally on the same day Bob Dudley officially takes over as CEO of British Petroleum from Tony Hayward: all symbols to the country outside of the Gulf Coast, all giving the impression of progress, of conditions being much better than is demonstrated by reality.
Throw in another hundred million dollars in commercials and soon enough, the country will move on, more important will be repairing the idea that the Gulf is damaged as opposed to repairing the Gulf itself. And repairing the idea, the image will be much cheaper and far more effective for everybody but those who live and work in the Gulf Coast.
There is already evidence of this occurring…specifically in regards to British Petroleum. I doubt I am the only one who has noticed the sea change in attitudes of this company. It isn’t only the reparation payments they handed over to Kenneth Feinberg, it was their humility as well, at least in regards to the way they have been working with the government. Suddenly, they infer that if they are not allowed to drill in the Gulf they will not have the money to continue payment of reparations. They continue to stonewall charities in the Gulf who are trying to provide services to residents such as rental assistance, food banks, utilities assistance and shelter. They refuse to pay state claims from the State of Alabama because of their attorney general’s lawsuit, and increasingly in the news are stories of BP’s more localized nonpayment of bills. It seems that because BP has set up this $20 billion escrow account, they feel much more comfortable about playing hardball with agencies and state governments, all the while just slapping another “make it right,” or “as long as it takes” commercial on the television to handle any potential criticism they might receive in process.
The illusion, the appearance is far more important than fact and BP and the government’s dependence on this construct is becoming much more brazen over time; it’s much like this recent story of sand castles from Florida.
A reporter with camera crew went down to the beaches of Gulf Island National Seashore where he dug a foot down underneath the sand and found oil. The top coat of sand, looked pretty good but below the surface…not so much, as the oil has inundated the beaches and Gulf seabed. While filming, the reporter and crew were approached by an officer from the US Fish and Wildlife Service where this exchange took place:
“Are you digging for oil product?” the official asked. When Thomas (the reporter) did not immediately confirm his intentions, the man threatened to call law enforcement and advised the journalist to move down the beach.
Moments later, an officer of the National Parks Service was demanding the reporter identify himself, insisting over and over, “you can’t dig.”
“So, no sand castles?” Thomas asked. “None of that, huh?”
“You’re right,” the officer replied.
The appearance that all is well with the Gulf is becoming more important than the reality that all is well with the Gulf. Rather than working together with the sharing of data, science, open-communication to solve problems we have been given chosen sides with attorneys, financial costs, political costs and bottom lines. On this beach where sand castles are considered illegal, BP has machines that will clean sand down a foot and a half but they say they are prevented from doing so by the Department of the Interior who question what else these sand cleaning machines might destroy in process. Two sides, arguing over nothing, and washing their hands of everything at the same time.
What do I mean? Simple…the oil on the beaches permeates much further than eighteen inches.
Instead of finding a solution here, we’ll just tell our officials to tell reporters that digging in the sand and making sand castles is illegal and should this story get too big, we’ll just buy up some more commercial time on national television to inject our illusions before the reality of the Gulf again gains a foothold in the country’s popular consciousness.
So guys? Yes, I’m glad you permanently killed the well, really…I am.
But at the same time, no…I’m not all that excited.
The way things are truly going, it will still be a long, long time before kids on the Gulf Coast get to make sand castles again.
Read the article,
Have a nice day.