Category Archives: The Environment
(It will be difficult to type this column since I have my fingers crossed.)
Some 100 days ago, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing eleven men and setting off a chain reaction of scientific, political, economic and energy fueled debate that has consumed the media and blogs everywhere. The tragedy that was the Deepwater Horizon, the floating oil rig that was responsible for the worst oil spill in American history, maybe be a story that is now about to enter its next chapter.
The spill is effectively capped, having been stopped from leaking about two weeks ago. It will be permanently sealed by the end of the month. Observers say that there is little visible oil on the surface of the Gulf. A combination of the use of controversial oil dispersants, evaporation, summer tropical storms and oil eating microbes, along with clean up efforts, has rendered much of the Gulf relatively clean.
The overall effect of the spill has yet to be seen. Truthfully, it will be years, maybe a decade before the full effect of the damage is known.
A good portion of the Gulf has been reopened to recreational fishing. Some areas have been cleared for commercial fishing. There are flickering signs that some tourism is coming back to the area, and the First Family is expected to pay a visit to the Gulf later this month.
And now the blame-game begins in earnest. President Obama has been hammered relentlessly by conservatives for his handling and the Federal response to the spill. Most of the accusations have been false (see Jones Act) but that certainly isn’t anything new. BP is replacing their CEO with one who hopefully can keep his foot out of his mouth and the $20 billion “slush fund” escrow account should pay the bill for the damage.
Well, like the little kid that sticks a bobby pin in a wall socket, this incident should shock us into taking the appropriate measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
But it probably won’t.
In the highly toxic partisan atmosphere of the country and Washington, gaining consensus for solutions is probably out of the question. Certainly, strong measures are required to make sure this never happens again, but logic has a way of escaping those inside the Beltway.
But the real burden in the aftermath of this disaster doesn’t lie with politicians and pundits, it lies with folks like you and me. If we breathe a collective sigh of relief and go on about our business, it will happen again. It is up to us, the citizens, to keep this issue on the front burner with the flame turned up.
This tragedy didn’t happen in our backyard, but it happened in our neighbor’s yard and we can’t let those that have been elected to represent us forget their responsibilities.
William Stephenson Clark
(Chevy Volt – plug in electric car – soon to be on the market.)
This is not a “gearhead” column, (so you non-gearheads can continue reading) but rather a thread about oil dependency.
The thread photo is of the prototype Chevy Volt electric car. The version that will be available in November is a conventional four door sedan.
The Volt is not a true electric car, nor is it a hybrid in the normal sense. It is a “plug in” car that does not need a special charging station. It has a “battery only” range of forty miles, at which point a small, four cylinder gasoline engine will kick in, acting as a generator and providing electricity to the motors.
Tesla Motors, a So-Cal based company, produces an all electric model that has an effective range of over 200 miles, but does not have a secondary source for electricity. It can also be charged at home, although it does need a special docking station.
By the time you read this, BP may have capped the gushing well in the Gulf – then the clean up will be the greater issue as million of gallons of oil have fouled the waters and beaches.
True energy independence will take a collective effort by all Americans – an effort that seems unlikely given our divided society. While polls show that Americans greatly favor alternative energy sources, we don’t really want to pay for them.
Americans in are in love with gas-guzzling mega-cars, SUV’s and trucks. We could postpone the inevitable end of the gasoline fueled vehicle if we were to go to higher mileage cars, but most don’t want to give up the space and presumed (wrongly) safety of our large vehicles.
Are vehicles like the Volt and the two Tesla models the “future?” Definitely maybe.
If we were truly, honest-to-God serious, we would be immediately moving towards hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, while using Compressed Natural Gas powered cars as an interim solution.
But we’re not serious.
The oil spill will be cleaned up, gas will hover around $2.50 a gallon, the economy will improve and more folks will have cash to drop at the gas station.
And we will kick the can down the road, once again.
Until the next crisis.
William Stephenson Clark
“in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
………………. Dr. Laurence Peter, 1969.
The fundamental point of the Peter Principle is that, within an organization, usually a corporation, an individual will eventually rise, through promotion, to a point beyond his or her capabilities, hence their “level of incompetence.”
Having worked in the corporate world for over thirty years, I saw many examples of the Peter Principle applied. Many “good” employees saw their careers stalled or even destroyed when they were promoted beyond their capabilities.
What we have seen in the past month and a half goes beyond the Peter Principle in reference to a single employee to the Principle applied to a entire corporation.
And that corporation is BP.
This amalgamation of morons, idiots, criminals, thieves, liars, spineless charlatans and clueless flunkies is responsible for the deaths of eleven workers and the destruction of a good portion of the Gulf of Mexico and it’s attendant industries.
And the destruction continues and BP seems to be without a semblance of knowledge as to what to do about it.
“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. – Murphy’s Law.
As a business person often charged with large-scale projects, I always kept this “fact” in the back of my mind, and planned contingencies as a response. In other words, I had a back up plan.
Well, here is a question that should have been asked of BP, before the fact:
“If you are drilling an exploratory well a mile under the surface of the Gulf, what is your “back up plan” should your single line of defense against a leak fail?”
As we all know now, the answer is nothing. And worst of all, it continues, a month and a half later, to be nothing, despite the optimistic reports from BP that this or that fix may, could, might stop the leak.
Now, they are trying a new approach – one that could well exacerbate the problem, rather than stop the flow of oil.
I am not encouraged.
William Stephenson Clark
Sociologists tell us that the human mind cannot meaningfully grasp numbers higher than a few thousand. Photographer Chris Jordan has made large mosaics that help translate the raw language of statistics into powerful images of global mass culture that we can respond to emotionally. The artist says, “I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.”
This picture, the artist titled, “Gyre,” is made from 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic that enter the world’s oceans every hour. All of the plastic (2.4 million pieces) in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean.
Other statistics Chris Jordan has made into images include:
- 426,000 cell phones discarded per day in the U.S.
- 2,000,000 plastic bottles used by Americans every five minutes
- 10,000 dog and cat collars, equal to the average number of unwanted dogs and cats euthanized in the United States every day
- 2.3 million Americans in prison
- 166,000 packing peanuts, equal to the number of overnight packages shipped by air in the U.S. every hour
- 28,000 42-gallon barrels, the amount of oil consumed in the United States every two minutes (equal to the flow of a medium-sized river)
- 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours of electricity wasted in the United States every minute from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.)
- one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours
- one hundred million toothpicks, equal to the number of trees cut in the U.S. yearly to make the paper for junk mail
- 200,000 packs of cigarettes, equal to the number of Americans who die from cigarette smoking every six months
Seeing the cumulative impact of individual actions through this talented artist’s lens awakens us to the enormity of our personal decisions.
To see more images and how Chris Jordan’s work is compiled: http://www.chrisjordan.com/current_set2.php
America Recycles Day (ARD) is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and buy recycled products. ARD is celebrated November 15. Hundreds of events are held across the U.S. to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and to encourage Americans to sign personal pledges to recycle and buy recycled products.
On November 15 each year, millions of people become better informed about the importance of daily recycling and buying recycled products. The purpose of America Recycles Day is to continue to promote the social, environmental and economic benefits of recycling and encourage more people to join the movement toward creating a better natural environment.
It really does all come back to us!
I am humbled. There aren’t words — this girl said them all better than I will ever be able to.
“This is the famous speech by Severn Suzuki when she was 12 years old in 1992 to United Nations.”
And still, nothing has changed.