We Americans are not very good at telling or hearing the truth, although we’d like to think that we are. We tell our schoolchildren that George Washington could not tell a lie about chopping down the cherry tree, even though, ironies of ironies, the story likely isn’t true. We fall all over ourselves giving the microphone to people whose whole understanding of the world is a lie (Rand Paul, Sarah Palin) because while we might not be very good at discerning or disseminating facts, we do so love our fiction.
Over the weekend we listened to our President tell West Point Cadets we will succeed in Afghanistan–succeed? At what? Even his own General–McChrystal– recently said that indeed, no one is winning. Congress keeps appropriating money for this endless battle but the truth is that war will make you poor. Congressman Alan Grayson has it right,
“Next year’s budget allocates $159,000,000,000 to “contingency operations,” to perpetuate the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s enough money to eliminate federal income taxes for the first $35,000 of every American’s income each year, and beyond that, leave over $15 billion that would cut the deficit.”
And in the Gulf–one wonders if there has been a coup–BP seems to be calling the shots. The EPA tells them not to continue to use a toxic chemical dispersant (see quote below regarding why this is so extremely terrifying and see here regarding the issue that this chemical was approved for use even though we have known about its toxicity for many years), and BP says they will keep using it. When reporters call law enforcement, they reach BP, scientific evidence is being evaluated by a company that counts BP as a client and worst of all, damage estimates are repeatedly minimized.
But the marshes are being destroyed, the oceans poisoned–there is no going back from this and as yet no way to stop it. This isn’t Exxon-Valdez, it is far, far worse and the damage beyond anything this country has ever seen and one which cannot be fixed. The Gulf coast as we know it is gone. The fishing, the tourism. There will be health consequences. There won’t be fish. Or perhaps coral reefs. Or perhaps us. And that is the truth of it.
Bob Herbert puts it eloquently,
“No one knows how much of BP’s runaway oil will contaminate the gulf coast’s marshes and lakes and bayous and canals, destroying wildlife and fauna — and ruining the hopes and dreams of countless human families. What is known is that whatever oil gets in will be next to impossible to get out. It gets into the soil and the water and the plant life and can’t be scraped off the way you might be able to scrape the oil off of a beach.
It permeates and undermines the ecosystem in much the same way that big corporations have permeated and undermined our political system, with similarly devastating results.”
And just how devastating? As bad as the consequences of what we have seen so far will be, it may get far, far worse:
“The oil field the Deepwater Horizon had tapped is said to be the second largest deposit in the world. Viewzone.com reports, “The site covers an estimated 25,000 square miles, extending from the inlands of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. “
The oil deposit is so large, it could produce 500,000 barrels of a day for more than a decade.
Part of the reason the well exploded is because the site also contains large deposits of natural gas…
…The New York Times has reported that scientists suspect the leak is thousands of times larger than what BP has been reporting. Some estimates are as high as one million gallons a day.
Rock particles, gas and oil escaping under pressure are pushing against the capstone on the sea floor that surrounds the actual well. If it collapses, the canyon of oil will escape with a vengeance.
Neither BP nor anyone else wants to say what will happen it the wellhead gives way or the sea floor around it caves in.”
Meanwhile, to hear government officials and Wall Street tell it, the economy is recovering, and perhaps in the language of economics it is. But in truth the ‘recovery’ looks something like an upside down Ponzi scheme, a bit like the Tempe, AZ City Hall.
All the wealth is at the top but there is little to support it down below–and unlike the architecturally brilliant building, the upside down economic pyramid must eventually fall down. We have almost pathological blinders when it comes to seeing the obvious perils to our continued existence–climate change and global warming, peak oil, water and food shortages, melting glaciers, species extinction, deforestration, floods, droughts, oceans under siege. But still we gulp the koolaid and believe that growth is good and things will be better soon. And we are just as blind when it comes to understanding that commodifying the sanctity of corporate well-being over human welfare is ultimately our downfall, not the path to prosperity that it claims to be.
I don’t watch much television, but I guess I should because it seems there is a Tru Tv which claims to be, “television’s destination for real-life stories told from an exciting and dramatic first-person perspective. “Not Reality. Actuality”. The truth will not be televised, but television is truth. As for the American dream, it is the reality show to end all reality shows. And in the finale, the truth will out, but unlike “Lost” or American Idol”, there won’t be re-runs and don’t hold your breath for a spin-off or a sequel.
Note regarding dispersants: Via the Times Online this is why these are so very dangerous. I would add that we should be extremely worried about the impact on reproductive health on animals and humans as well:
“Dispersants can contain particular evils. Corexit 9527 — used extensively by BP despite it being toxic enough to be banned in British waters — contains 2-butoxyethanol, a compound that ruptures red blood cells in whatever eats it. Its replacement, COREXIT 9500, contains petroleum solvents and other components that can damage membranes, and cause chemical pneumonia if aspirated into the lungs following ingestion.
But what worries Dr (Susan) Shaw most is the long-term potential for toxic chemicals to build up in the food chain. “There are hundreds of organic compounds in oil, including toxic solvents and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), that can cause cancer in animals and people. In this respect light, sweet crude is more toxic than the heavy stuff. It’s not only the acute effects, the loss of whole niches in the food web, it’s also the problems we will see with future generations, especially in top predators.””