Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dark Reflections

Warning: Today’s post might be considered a bit dark.
I love sharing my beautiful world with all of you through this blog. I feel privileged to do so, and also privileged to live the way I do, for whatever length of time I am afforded this opportunity. My life is relatively pristine and simple. Pollutants and degradation of the environment, such as mountaintop removal, for example, are “just over the hill,” (rather than Just Off The One-Lane Road) from me…out of sight, out of mind. So it would be easy for me to pretend that everything is “hunky dory.”

But…it’s not. Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida…are not that far away. Where I live I am reminded that we out here JOTOLR are downwind of one of the largest chemical complexes of the world, Nitro, West Virginia,  home of Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical), maker of the pesticide, now synonymous with the name of the Indian city, Bophal. Eeerily, curiously, (it seems to me) the locale contains the letters BP. Remember Bophal?  Twenty-five years ago.....

From Wikipedia… (December 2-3, 1984) on Bophal

“The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Other government agencies estimate 15,000 deaths. Others estimate that 8,000 died within the first weeks and that another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.

Some 25 years after the gas leak, 390 tons of toxic chemicals abandoned at the UCIL plant continue to leak and pollute the groundwater in the region and affect thousands of Bhopal residents who depend on it today.”

Greenpeace asserts that as the Union Carbide CEO, Anderson knew about a 1982 safety audit of the Bhopal plant, which identified 30 major hazards and that they were not fixed in Bhopal but were fixed at the company's identical plant in the US. In June 2010, seven ex-employees, including the former chairman of UCIL, were convicted in Bhopal of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by law. An eighth former employee was also convicted but had died before judgment was passed”

With the Gulf Oil Spill (notice the capital letters) it seems to me we should all be very frightened of the consequences of this disaster as it continues to unfold. We should also be extremely wary of politicians and corporate moguls who exist only to promote their own agendas, who have no expertise except politics and profits.

Personally, I get worried when I hear words—just words—spoken which imply everything will be all right, that it will be “cleaned up completely” and lifestyles “will be restored.” That we will work relentlessly until it’s all back to normal.

I think not.

Can anyone imagine “vacuuming” the entire ocean floor to retrieve all the spilled oil? Or scrubbing every last pelican? Stopping the spread as the slick inches outward from the source? Giving CPR to all the manatees, turtles and dolphins that cannot breathe? Cleaning the wetlands grass blade by grass blade? Really, truly? Can anyone honestly believe the beaches won’t smell of oil for decades, or forever? They still reek after all this time…in Prince William Sound. I’ve been there and can attest to this. Or that there will be no human health consequences? What about those dispersants? How many million gallons released?

Isn’t it time we start to re-make our world? Shouldn’t we be demanding an end to “progress,” and business as usual…? I don’t believe we can continue to expect that life for our children and grand children will be “better” than it was for us, unless we re-define the word, “better.” We are so bloated with our own self-importance as a species, we are killing not only other species, but ourselves as well.

I’ve been reading a blog recently that has captured my curiosity if nothing else. It’s not one of those things you can read quickly, and adopt, or commit to immediately upon reading.. I am not even sure I agree with it entirely. I question much of what is written throughout the “Manifesto” it espouses. But it begins to “get under my skin” as I contemplate the dimensions of its message. Even the very word “manifesto” smacks of something dark…yet, I continue to read

Here’s the URL if you’re interested. In a few days, after you’ve had a go at reading some of it, let me know what you think. The Dark Mountain Project

Where is our sense of focus?  What are we focusing ON?  How do we weed the important from the non-important these days?  How do we beat back the idea that buying produces quality of living?  Each of us will have our own answers:  some will say God, some will say Simplicity, some will say Technology.  Whatever your personal answer is, it seems  we need to acknowledge a responsibility to face the future squarely and recognize that we cannot afford to continue to cover up, sugar coat, and deny the true consequences of life as we've lived it over the past 50 years.


  1. The fines imposed for Bophal come to the equivalent of 3p (10c)for each person still alive who was affected by the explosion. How cheap are people's lives when they are in another country.
    I never cease to be amazed at the way we are still using our petrochemicals for fuel when there are so many alternatives. Not to forget that petrochemicals are a finite resource which we need for many pharmaceuticals as well as the plastics industry.What will we do when we've used them up? Mankind needs to wake up and prioritise its needs but greed and maintaining the status quo will come first.

  2. A good and thought-provoking post. And sadly true.

  3. Elora thank you for this. I'm about to check it out and do some reading. These thoughts have also been occupying my mind more than usual in recent weeks. What I have learned is that for me a lower income results in a better standard of living, sort of a time vs money equation. With work being sporadic for me lately I find that I have more time to create a better and more satisfying life. With more time spent at work then I feel the need to buy things - i.e no time to make a card and present for someone just rush to the shop and buy it, same with food etc. It also means no temptation towards consumer goods as I simply cannot afford them but neither do I desire them any longer when I consider the lack of ethics surrounding their production then they lose all temptation. For me the answer lies in an agrarian lifestyle as much as possible and I acknowledge that I'm very lucky to be able to do that. Learning to nuture the land leaves us with an empathy for the wider environment and it helps build community around us. For many I feel the answer lies in a lack of community to which they need to be responsible for their actions. When those around them are nameless then it becomes each to their own and subsequently they can't but a name to those whom their actions will eventually impact upon. Oh dear, I'm stopping now as this is all a bit disjointed and I could write for hours! Makes it tempting to return to university and do my masters in anthropology!