A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded upon trash and waste, and such a society is a house built on sand.

- Dorothy Sayers

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez: Twenty-Five Years and No Wiser.

It is the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill, and funnily enough, not many people seem to be wearing black arm bands.  Twenty-five years ago more than 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into Alaska's Prince William Sound, destroying a priceless ecosystem.  Only 13 of the 32 monitored wildlife populations, habitats and resource services that were injured in the spill have been described, even by the government monitors, as having "recovered" or even "very likely recovered", and most of the local environmentalist watchdog groups are even more pessimistic about the regions recovery.  The economically vital pacific herring fisheries are gone forever, along with the fish.  The native orca pod is dying and past any hope of saving - like many of the other natural wonders of the Sound's once pristine waters. Oil is, after all, toxic, something we tend to forget at the gas pump after our purchase has underwritten the risky transport of the stuff half-way around the world through a great many ecologically fragile by-ways.

So have we learned anything?  To all intents and purposes - apparently not.  Not  a damned thing - and I use the word "damned" in accordance with its richest and most complete theological implications.  We are still addicted to the stuff - and we still want more - no matter what the cost, no matter what good and beautiful things get destroyed by our addiction, and no matter whom we have to cheat, bully, steal from, or outright invade, to get our national fix.  We hide our addiction under the banner of progress, but this is little more than to say that we are addicted to technology, to convenience, to things that glitter, whir, beep, buzz, entertain, and amuse us.  We have come to believe that we need, indeed, simply must have (or our lives will be miserable and without meaning), all the gadgets and devices that transport us quickly and individually from place to place, that cook our food in seconds, that clean our homes, our food, and our bodies swiftly and efficiently,  and that make and carry things, including all of our food and all of our many gadgets, as fast as possible - and all of that technology, to one degree or another depends almost entirely on what one of OPEC's founders, the Venezualan Oil Minister Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso, used to describe as as "el excremento del diablo."  He was wrong about the source, of course.  But he was right about a great many of the effects  of the nasty, sticky, poisonous glop.  Mind you, it is a precious energy rich resource.  But cookies are a priceless source of high energy carbohydrates too, and one still shouldn't eat too many of them, as we regularly, and rather hypocritically, tell small children. 

Look, let's admit it.  I'm part of the problem, and you are too - even if you are an environmentalist.  Pretty much all of us dwelling in the industrial and post-industrial world are, to one degree or another.  Might I suggest, though, as a Christian priest to my fellow Christians, that those of us who love God's world, and who publicly claim that this world is His, and not ours - that we are answerable before Him, as stewards, for what we do to the things he has put into our care, might want to try, as hard as possible, to reduce our participation in this problem during the next 25 years.  It is, after all, at least conceivable that some of God's children facing the many ecological problems of the next generation or two might need some of those energy rich resources to fix the messes that we will have left them.  It might be nice to be able to say that we did our part on their behalf.

(Here's an article on the subject, from which I have shamelessly cribbed and quoted at length without providing exacting attribution,  either for those who are young enough to have no idea what I am talking about, and need some more information, or for those who want to check my sources:  http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/23/opinion/holleman-exxon-valdez-anniversary/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

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