You Lay Down In the Road

Via Monkeyfister:


The images and the prospects for the future shock the conscience. And yet, as David Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin report, despite the disaster, despite its direct ties to our addiction to oil, the spill has resulted in almost no groundswell for environmental change.

The WaPo article DDay cites points out that Americans have reacted with determined indifference:

U.S. government estimates show that public demand for gasoline and electric power is looking stronger now than last year at this time. If these disasters have made individuals start conserving their energy use, “it’s not something that we’ve been able to observe,” said Tancred Lidderdale of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

All of this makes a sharp contrast to 1969, when a far smaller oil spill – 100,000 barrels (4.2 million gallons) – hit beaches near Santa Barbara, Calif.

That spill triggered new restrictions on offshore drilling and, along with other disasters such as the fire on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, it helped spark the first Earth Day in 1970. In the years afterward, the government imposed historic new restrictions to protect clean water, clean air and endangered species.

This year’s spill hit in the era of recycling, organic food and hybrid cars: In fact, two days after the explosion, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank on Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, April 22.

But, experts say, the reaction to this spill revealed a shift toward quieter, less ambitious environmental politics.

One reason is the economy: Concerns about unemployment have made the public and elected officials wary of the costs of change. People still remember $4-a-gallon gasoline a couple of summers ago, and don’t want fossil fuel to become more expensive.

Compromised environmentalists don’t look so hot either:

The Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist, Peter Kariva, also responded with a blog post defending the group’s collaboration with BP. “In fact, although we have never engaged with BP or other energy companies on their offshore Gulf drilling, maybe we should have — we might have been able to help site their activities to reduce the risk to the Gulf’s globally significant habitats.” Commenters fired off many angry responses to Kariva’s post.

Reportedly, BP also provided $2 million in donations to Conservation International. In response to the spill, the group plans to review its relationship with BP. Conservation International Vice President Justin Ward said, “Reputational risk is on our minds.”

Further, the Sierra Club and Audubon, along with other energy and environmental groups, joined with BP Wind Energy in 2007 to form the American Wind and Wildlife Institute. The Economist also reports that the Environmental Defense Fund helped BP develop its internal carbon-trading system.

Within a week after the well blew industry shills mounted a televised assault on environmental regulation. For a few minutes, I was actually shocked that people were willing to cross this line into raving indecency – because make no mistake, that is what it is – and declare that despite an ecological disaster that will change the complexion of our planet our toxic lifestyle would continue. If they had fiddles, I’d swear Rome was burning. But why should I be surprised by the magical thinking that allows crazy people to blather on about trashing our planet, ourselves and acting like there’s some other world we can all wreck next?

Look, it’s over. This life is over. We have to adapt to this reality or die.

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