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Dying in the Oil Spill June 22, 2010

Deep Water Oil Rig

Grief never really goes away, the mind-healer told me. It’s just that new things continue to happen, and they become part of our experience too, so the grief is not the only thing, and then it’s not the biggest thing…

We are warned against something call persistent grief, a grief that somehow doesn’t respond to this natural process. Persistent grief leads to depression – suppressor of the immune system, inflamer of the blood vessel linings, destroyer of the body-spirit’s urgency to overcome obstacles and keep on going.

We are supposed to let something new come in and occupy the heart along with this oil spill grief. But with those thousands of gallons welling up, sliming the turtles and the birds, fouling the grasses, poisoning the oysters, sinking down to suffocate the seabed—how, exactly, are we supposed to make room for something new?

I saw graffiti in Harvard Square today that said Execute BP Executives. It used to feel good to believe that we could make it stop.

Here is our sorrow: that we can’t make this destruction stop, and we can’t make the system that produced it stop. This thing that has got hold of our planet’s capacity is entrenched. There is no defeat by frontal assault.

No manager whose company is experiencing project costs of $1,000,000 a day can be relied on to use sound judgment about how to get the project finished. This is especially true when that company makes $6,000,000,000 per quarter in profits. Reforms could inject some amount of accountability into this system. Regulation and enforcement may limit the worst of oil disasters. They will in their turn be seduced. On the way to that moment they will produce some new, better technology and engineering practices.

There is a deeper problem here. No economy that depends on the current level of energy consumption can be expected to think straight about reliably safe ways to extract energy – from the atom, or from the oil in the sea or the sand. There is no short term reform answer to the problem on this level. But this is a complex system, and complexity theory tells us that there is no telling what effect a small act can have. If anything is to change, it will come from millions of personal decisions to do whatever acts we can, today, tomorrow, every day, to escape this hypnosis and this bondage. It will come from thousands of local initiatives to shift transportation priorities, to place limits on what can be extracted no matter how urgently we need the jobs or the fuel.

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About Katherine Power

I didn’t set out to be a terrorist. As a student activist, I moved from protesting the war in Viet Nam to waging guerrilla war to overthrow the government….

Recent and Upcoming Appearances and Publications
1/15/2014 Complexity and Social Change, Occupy Radio
10/31/2013 Surrender, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
10/25/2013 Surrender, Taos Community Theater, Taos, NM

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