Today marks the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill. The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed eleven people and precipitated the largest ecological disaster in our nation’s history. Million of gallons of crude spilled into the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico destroying wildlife and fragile eco systems. Sugar white beaches were soiled as tar balls washed ashore. The tourism and fishing industries, the economic bedrocks of the Gulf region, were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost tens of thousands of small businesses shuttered and eleven families lost their loved ones. BP set up a $20 billion claims fund and thus far has paid out $3.8 billion in damages.
Now one year later the tourists are starting to return but in far fewer numbers. Fishermen are back at work but they cannot sell their catch because the market is still poor. Biologists are still concerned about the spill’s long term effects on marine life. They believe that much of the oil still lies on the bottom of the Gulf. It can be seen rising to the surface along the Louisiana coastline.
So what have we done to make certain that such an event never happens again? The answer of course is nothing.
A presidential commission and an internal BP report concluded that the disaster was the result of a confluence of technological and managerial failures not likely to occur again. Stuff happens. So offshore drilling continues. The outdated technology is still the same; the failed safety procedures still in place.
A few members of Congress have attempted to address the problem with little result. Since the dates of the spill eighty four pieces of regulatory legislation have been proposed. Only two have passed. America’s insatiable addiction to oil must not be deterred.
The nightmare still continues for many of the Gulf coast residents. To the rest of the country the spill is but a memory.
The BP oil spill and our country’s response are emblematic of something inherently flawed in our society. When a major event occurs we run around with our hair on fire screaming in outrage. Then we do nothing. We become paralyzed by politics and misguided ideology. We lose sight of the goal. Are we being unfair? Consider these recent events.
Terrorists knock down the twin towers killing thousands. We vowed to rebuild on the site...to send a message that we will not be bowed by terrorist attacks. Ten years later Ground Zero is still a hole in the ground. Hurricane Katrina devastates a major US city. Years later much of the city is still uninhabitable. Rogue gunmen massacre innocents at Columbine, Virginia Tech and in front of a Tucson shopping center… still today any wacko can walk into a gun show and purchase an assault weapon as easy as buying a pack of gum. The list goes on and on.
We don’t mean to be insensitive here; but the country suffers from some sort of attention deficit disorder. We cannot seem to focus on a problem long enough to fix it. Instead of understanding a problem and coming together to work toward a solution we get all caught up in politics and ideology. We argue until we are too exhausted to reach a solution…or the solution is too watered down to be effective. We lose sight of the goal.
This is a country of unlimited resources and skill. We have the ability to solve our problems efficiently and effectively. We have the ability to do great things. If only we had the focus and the perseverance to see them through to the end.