How BP is killing my faith along with the Gulf

Ok, I’ve been going along here, trying to write, and every day I try to share something interesting about sustainability. But I am stuck. I feel like I should say something about the Gulf Disaster, and I can’t think of anything that hasn’t already been said, elsewhere, and better than what I could say.

The other thing is just the despair–plain and simple–that I am filled with every time I even think about it. If there is one thing my students can agree is true about me: I loathe careless work. I can count the number of times on one hand that I didn’t do my best in a job, 100 percent that I had in a given day or point in my life, and those times I didn’t sting me with regret even now. It has never mattered to me what that job was: making toast or serving ice cream in a cafeteria when I was 18 or teaching classes now, the goal was 100 percent. It’s not striving: it’s a matter of principle.

BP has been guilty of one instance of bad work after another leading up to this, which as far as I can tell is simple armageddon for the Gulf. BP has had refinery explosion after explosion: dead employees, burn victims in the general public. They have been a careless custodian of their industry; they have routinely been a bad neighbor to the places who have hosted them. Time and time again they have been cited for process safety violations at various plants. They should have been shut down after Texas City, where multiple safety citations went ignored until BP caused an accident that killed both townspeople and employees.

Some want to spread the responsibility and make this about oil dependency. Fine, do so; maybe it is. But it also about a company that was in a position–like Exxon–where anything less than 100 percent competence 100 percent of the time is unforgivable. BP has time and time again sought profit without responsibility. Decision by decision, engineer, manager, operator, risk analysts, ceo…bad work went forward when somebody with power should have had the integrity to make themselves unpopular and stand up for the right thing to do under all manner of US regulations requiring you to report and plan for the worst case scenario.

The suffering marine animals, innocents destroyed, the beaches ruined, all indefensible. The waste, my god, the waste of life and beauty that now confronts us!

I have never been able to separate my intellect from my heart; it’s one of my chief faults. I feel like I have nothing intelligent left to say about sustainability because the truth is, I am heartbroken. Everything I do from teaching to writing to researching about the environment seems so futile in the face of such malevolent and powerful indifference as this. I thought my faith was broken after Bhopal, but it came back; I thought Chernobyl was the worst it could possibly get, a caution, a lesson to us all about a bridge too far. I was wrong.

Those Friedmanites who think corporations will protect the public in order to maintain their reputation had better STFU vis-a-vis this pretty convincing evidence to the contrary.