Then, as part of Sustainable September, Sept, 7, at the Garland Theater, Gulf Coast Blues starts a five-day film festival. Marc Gauthier will be there, and Down to Earth will host that event.
The story is just unfolding -- that is, the ramifications of the BP blow-out and the cover-up. I have plenty to say about the entire mess. I've interviewed Gulf Coast residents for my radio show, Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge -- http://www.kyrs.org/. I've had photographers on -- Matthew White -- http://www.matthewwhitestudio.com/. I've had a birder on, Drew Wheelan, who was standing by dead terns on beaches the media and BP declared free of oil, free of death, while being interviewed by me live. Some of these images and voices will be in Marc's film, which he is still editing and doing last minute content additions.
For now, though, the best clear story covering the lies and the media manipulation and the scientific truths is from September/October 2010 issue of Mother Jones -- By Julia Whitty, "BP's Deep Secrets."
Below are some break-out passages from her story. Mother Jones had more reporters there than most of America's newspapers and TV networks. BP is all about protecting shareholders' interests, not upholding the law of the land or doing right by the environment and people. Millions of gallons of toxic dispersants were pumped into the ocean to cover up the hundreds of millions of gallons of crude pumped into the ocean; millions of tons of methane gushing out were treated by BP with methanol, another toxin.
Scientists were hired on at $250 an hour with the caveat to keep their reseach secret. Prohibiting CBS and ProPublica and other press groups and individuals from being there was part of the US Coast Guard's collusion with BP profit spinners.
In any case, future PacifiCAD blogs will cover many aspects of this story. For now, the Mother Jones article and the breakout passages below:
And no one is ready for it. Not the Minerals Management Service, catering submissively to BP's laughable Gulf oil-spill "plan," a document featuring wildly inaccurate wildlife assessments (including walruses and other species nonexistent in the Gulf) and an on-call expert who's been dead for years. Not the scientists whose research is paid for by the oil cowboys. Not the environmental groups, who did not foresee the stupendous potential for cataclysm on oil's farthest frontier. Not the media, who almost entirely ignored the sneak preview offered last year by the blowout of the West Atlas rig drilling in the Timor Sea off Australia—a disaster that required five attempts at a relief well and 74 days to stanch.
"Oil is toxic to most life. And Corexit is toxic to most life. But the most toxic of all is oil that's been treated with Corexit."
Rick Steiner, a conservation specialist from the University of Alaska who's studied the effects of the Exxon Valdez spill for the past 21 years, discusses these possibilities as we look on helplessly. "The dolphins aspirate oily fumes through their blowholes," he says. "They're eating fish exposed to oil. They're getting oil in all their orifices. They're bathed in a continual soup of oil. There's nowhere to go to get away from it. We know from the Exxon Valdez that even those animals not killed outright suffer lesions in their organs, including the brain. They go blind. They experience reproductive failures, changes in their blood chemistry, and possibly multigenerational changes passed down to offspring never even exposed to the oil."
"Even though this concoction may have exploded from the well a month ago and has been wending its way ashore ever since, it's still full of volatile compounds like benzene," says Steiner. "Benzene's a known carcinogen, dangerous to human life, too."
They have to pay these guys to work or else they'll riot," says Carl Safina, marine conservationist and cofounder of the Blue Ocean Institute. "As it is, they're angry, drinking, griping in the bars. By paying them, BP is deflecting their anger. Plus some of them feel like they're really helping, even though BP's two prime cleanup methods—setting out boom and using dispersant—completely undermine each other."
Along with oil, methane, methanol, and Corexit, drilling fluids add their own frightening recipe to the disaster: arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, barite, fluoride, chrome lignosulfonate, vanadium, copper, aluminum, chromium, zinc, radionuclides, and other heavy metals. Relief wells require pumping thousands more barrels of drilling fluid into the reservoir, with all the same risks of explosion attending the original well. The EPA estimates these drilling fluids will pose a threat to the seafloor and surrounding waters for up to 40 years.
Never before in human history has the vast food web of the ocean—rooted in the dark, and flowering at the surface—come under so many assaults from below, above, and within the water column: marine warfare masquerading as a cleanup.
An estimated 1,665 sperm whales inhabit (and perhaps never leave) the northern waters of the Gulf. A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assessment calculated that even three additional deaths (by other than natural causes) could endanger the entire sperm whale population, since the whales breed infrequently and only in midlife.
"We lack even a good picture of life in the deep Gulf," says Ed Chesney. "Now we may never know what's been done to it." It's the classic iceberg equation: a nine-tenths submerged hazard, lurking unseen in the darkness. The big question: Will it wreck the Gulf of Mexico? "The best thing that might happen now," says Chesney, a battle-scarred veteran of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike, "is for one, two, three, or four hurricanes to blow through and bury all this pollution under layers of sediment."
"We know that the deep scattering layer in the Gulf of Mexico—like the DSL everywhere—supports huge numbers and biomass of life," says Benoit-Bird, who has spent time studying the Gulf's sperm whales. "We know the DSL is super important to the life of those waters. We know it's constantly on the move, not only up and down, but inshore and offshore, back and forth, every day and every night. This greatly increases the likelihood that any given animal or layers of life will be exposed to the pollutants at some point in the course of their travels. And each of these exposures will cascade up and down through the food web."
Some early observations of the effects of the Gulf catastrophe suggest the daily vertical migrations of the animals of the deep scattering layer may be blocked when they encounter plumes of oil and contaminants. If so, then trapped below a plume, the DSL fish and invertebrates would be unable to access their prey. Trapped above, they would be unable to escape their predators. Trapped within, they would probably die—and in their deaths, poison those who eat them. For the ocean, any loss of productivity in the deep scattering layer would be the biggest cataclysm of all—impoverishing the surface waters, depleting the coasts, cascading across the boundaries between ocean and land to denude both natural and human economies.
On the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, as black doom wells up from the seafloor a mile down, I find oil on beaches repeatedly cleaned by hazmat crews. All I have to do is lean down and scratch an inch into the sand to find goop. It occurs to me that a new stratum is being written in the geological logbook of the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps someday to be known as the BP dark layer. Will history record it as the oily seam marking the end of an untenable energy era and the beginning of a better one?
This is in response to the comment below. Thanks for those comments, folk!
Pretty cynical. The corporation in question has been given billions in government aid -- taxpayer aid. We give the oil industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tax credits. We give the BP's of the world cart blanc when it comes to skirting regulations. That oil, that territory, it's USA property, the people's property. So, lying corporations, and their lying lawyers are ALWAYS working against the America people, AGAINST the laws we've expected to be followed. So, yes, corporations are in many cases like drug dealers -- they have to cover their tracks with the help of college-educated scientists and lawyers and economists.
The corporation's bottom line? Some cool stuff on corporations in Raj Patel's The Value of Nothing.
Or the movie, The Corporation --
"The corporation is compared to a sociopath. The sociopathic personality is irresponsible, manipulating, grandiose, lacking in empathy, has antisocial tendencies, refuses to accept responsibility for its actions, and cannot feel remorse....Many of the attitudes people adopt and the actions they execute when acting as corporate operatives can be characterized as sociopathic.
Moreover, by the legal way a corporation is set up, its only motive is profit. Every action taken, no matter how altruistic it looks, has to ultimately be a search for profits. Otherwise, the corporation is subject to litigation by the shareholders. The corporation is deliberately programmed and legally compelled to externalize (dump) costs (pollution, for example) without regard for the harm it may cause. Every cost it can unload onto the general public is a benefit to stockholders - a direct route to profit.
Many major corporations habitually engage in criminal behavior with records worse than even the most prolific human criminals. GE collected 42 heavy fines over 11 years - akin to a hardened repeat criminal receiving occasional hand slaps while on perpetual parole. Corporations don't mind chalking these fines up as a cost of doing business - then delegating a committee to figure out how to cover their tracks better in the future. Sounds a lot like a sociopath.
Within the past 20 years, corporations have really gotten in bed with government in the United States. Billions in PAC money is spent every year for lobbying and political contributions. A grateful politician must find it difficult to turn someone down who has given a hundred thousand dollars to his campaign. How can virtually unfunded (by comparison) watchdog groups compete with this machine aimed toward sugar-coating their industries and de-regulation?"
Or this perspective --
"I know what a thug corporation looks like," says lawyer and radio host Mike Papantonio, who is busy building a RICO case against BP for the oil devastation in the Gulf. "These people are sociopaths and the GOP are apologizing for them." Papantonio discusses the ongoing case against BP, noting that the company bragged back in 2008 of being able to better track its oil movements only to claim now that it had no idea how much oil was gushing into the water. He also discusses the studies that found brain damage and genetic mutations in people exposed to oil in previous spills--and why drilling in Alaska is going forward anyway. "We're tired of just going out in the streets and demonstrating or listening to other people speak to us," says organizer Rocio Valerio of her hopes for the U.S. Social Forum. "We're actually going to come up with alternatives, to really come up with a plan." The Social Forum, this week in Detroit, provides space for organizers like Rocio to come together and work for a better U.S.--and Laura will be reporting from the Forum this weekend. Stay tuned for more!A Congressional investigation has confirmed what Aram Roston reported last November in The Nation: US tax dollars go into the pockets of Afghan warlords in "a massive protection racket" which may lead back to Taliban hands.
Roston discusses the web of connections, payoffs, and private armies of what he calls "irregulars" who are accountable only to themselves and their own military power. Nine years in, Afghanistan is the US's longest-running conflict--and we still don't know where the money is going? And just what's going on with General McChrystal, anyway? Finally, BP's Tony Hayward "got his life back" going yachting. Millionaires around the world are spending more on boats. But one Gulf fisherman has a better idea of where they can spend those spare millions.