The Black Plague May 2, 2010Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Federal Flood, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: BP, British Petroleum, Gulf Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, oil spill
“We will armor the levees with their skulls”.
I wrote that once on this blog, but someone else said it first. I won’t remind you who that is, as there are people in the government who might find that statement provocative in ways that I’d rather not contemplate. It’s not like I’m some tea-bagger firing my AK-47 at Obama targets or some other acceptable American sub-culture. I am a citizen of New Orleans and a descendant of our neighbors in Acadiana, and I have learned by experience that I don’t count as a first class citizen of the country of my birth. Three-fifths, perhaps. If you think I’m exaggerating, wait until you see the response when the pristine tourist beaches are black with oil (sand much more easily replaced than an entire mash ecosystem).
I am too angry to write fresh words at length about the massive river of oil British Petroleum has let loose. Please don’t call it a “spill”. A spill is what you do to your shirt with red sauce. This is another flood–like 1927, like the one that followed the storm when the Federal levees failed below their specified load–this one of oil. They have no idea how to stop it, short of a relief well, and that will take more than a month, an oil field engineer acquaintance tells us.
We are urged to be calm. “This is not the apocalypse” say two Mississippi congressman after their helicopter overflight and briefing, one eye on the oil slick and another on the lucrative casinos that line their waterfront. Mary Landrieu, the Distinguished Senator from Big Oil takes to the floor and delivers for those campaign dollars, reminding us that we should not panic, endorsed President Obama’s view: “…when he said we want the industry to move forward [with offshore drilling]. We do not want them to retreat.”
It’s Jazz Fest but maybe I should stay in today. If I see a Hummer or an F-350 Crew Cab that has clearly carried nothing but groceries, I will be hard pressed not to run them off the road into a tree.
“We will armor the levee with their skulls.” There are probably not enough BP executives to go around. We will have to widen the pool to get enough skulls. As satisfying as that sounds, that will not save St. Bernard and east Plaquemine fisherman from a second disaster of biblical proportion in five years, or if the winds spread it west of the river.
Until then, from a time when anger seemed as natural a state as sleep and consumed almost as much time, from my retired Katrina blog Wet Bank Guide:
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Farewell to all that
Somewhere north of 60 degrees vast sheets of ice break apart into tiny islands, floating baby polar bears and seal pups away to their doom. A vast expanse of rain forest is bulldozed into pulp while displaced aborigines watch stoically, endangered butterflies flittering around them like ancestral spirits. The world is being taken apart like an old baseball as humanity carefully picks and pulls at the seams in our quest to make sure there is not some missed bit of ore or fuel, some sparkly jewel we have left undisturbed beneath the surface.
Baby boomers indoctrinated by Marlin Perkins and Euell Gibbons to value the exotic and distant in the natural world are so disturbed by these catastrophes they nearly choke on their organic, free-trade coffee. These Samaritans threaten to overwhelm coastal cities all around the globe with endless crocodile tears of anguish long before the glaciers melt.
Fuck the polar bears. If the only habitats you care about saving must involve animals suitable for reproduction in faux fur, the ones stuffed in a wire bin at the local zoo’s gift shop, it’s over. Your own world is crumbling beneath your feet and you don’t even know it. If you will only be bothered about saving endangered Americans if we put bones through our noses and take to living by spearing fish in Bayou St. John, we are not the only ones standing in the shadow of our man-made doom.
Every drop of ethanol you pump into your hybrid car and every gallon of gasoline it dilutes; every ounce of the imported steel that wraps you in the perceived cocoon of safety in your SUV that swallows that fuel; every forkful of food made with mass produced soybeans or corn and every springy blade of lovingly fertilized green grass in your lawn: almost everything you do and touch today in America is systematically destroying a vast and valuable eco-system in your own backyard.
In the process, cultures as unique and valuable as any aboriginal group on the globe — the Acadians of south central Louisiana, the Isleños in the east, the native Houma — all are left to stare out over the open water that once was the marsh that fed and sheltered their families, to look at an empty net or oyster rake and see there the void they feel inside as their world falls apart. In the distance, vast stands of dead coastal forest stand as gray and skeletal as concentration camp survivors. If you think I am exaggerating, I recommend you take the time to read Mike Tidwell’s Bayou Farewell or Christopher Hallowell’s Holding Back the Sea. Within this generation it will all be gone, not through an inexorable process of natural erosion–that would take another thousand years or two–but by a combination of choice and willful ignorance of the costs of what man has wrought.
The coast will not be gone by 2080, or 2050, or even 2030. It could be gone tomorrow, with the next storm that comes ashore. It will certainly be gone within this generation if nothing changes to reverse the policies of cheap energy and food exports which, by robbing the coast of replenishment then slashing what remains with oil-and-gas canals that poison the marsh with saltwater, have indirectly expropriated an area the size of Delaware in Louisiana without paying a penny.
What does America care? The citizens of the US prefer their goods shoddy and imported, made with the cheapest labor possible under any conditions that guarantee that the shelves of Wal-Mart and Target remain stocked to the ceiling at a guaranteed low price. The far east will cheerfully supply all the shrimp and crawfish needed, if you’re not to scrupulous about being slowly poisoned by it. We’re already as enslaved to the Saudi’s as any pipehead or junkie, so what’s a little more imported oil going to hurt? Or, better yet, grow more row crops for ethanol and poison the Mississippi with more fertilizer, until the dead zone created obliterates all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.
Sadly, when we are gone most of you won’t be able to afford those goods. When the marshes have vanished and the big one comes, it may sweep away the infrastructure from which a quarter of the nation’s oil and gas originates, is imported or processed. Or else it may find the entire lower stretch of the Mississippi an unprotected earthen jetty, and sweep the banks away and send the river down a new course to the sea closing all navigation. Crop exports and steel imports will cease and oil prices will spike to the astronomical. How long could your state’s economy prosper at 10-cents-a-bushel crops and $10-a-gallon for gas?
For those of you who live in the new, service oriented America (where row crops and steel are just a box down at the bottom of the page next to where you track your mutual funds), don’t worry. The Acadians may be gone, but we will save the French Quarter and the street car for you. We can contract with Disney to schedule daily parades down Bourbon Street with festive, Cajun themes. The most important parts of our culture–the cheap beads and t-shirts, the high-proof daiquiris and karaoke bars–all of that is high and dry and waiting for you. So come on down. We have arranged for the best garbage service money can buy, standing by to hose your vomit from the street before you wake for afternoon brunch.
Just try not to look out the window of your plane as it approaches the city, lest you be reminded that the cost of that low-fare to the City That Care Forgot is the displacement of a million of your fellow citizens and the destruction of their unique culture, the intentional eradication of an entire, genuine way of life. Forget that someday the consequences of that loss will come home to you.