Monday, June 14, 2010

War on What?

I've heard the question put forth, "is the BP oil spill Obama's Katrina?" Any such comparison between different historical and political events is bound to bear limited fruit. One can always find interesting parallels, but the lessons will break down over important differences. Whatever role was played by humanity in the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005, the dice were rolled by Nature. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent gushing of oil and toxic dispersants are entirely man-made disasters. While Katrina had grave regional implications, the current disaster has global implications that cut to the heart of energy, ecology, and economics.

With that in mind, I am more inclined to ask, "is the oil spill Obama's 9/11?" Of course there are important differences. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, barring some conspiracy theory, were deliberate acts by self-proclaimed enemies of the West. The despoiling of the Gulf was a stupid accident by a network of "friendly" contractors and regulators. 9/11 involved thousands of human deaths. All but 11 of the Gulf deaths, as far as I know so far, have been non-human life forms.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sorry, Mr. Lorax

At the Archdruid Report, where it's the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine, there are a lot of references made to the 1970's. For it is in that decade, with its energy crises, back-to-the-land movements, and increasing environmental awareness, where we find one of the richest archives of thought, from the practical to the philosophical, macro to micro, on possible paths to a sustainable future.

Eventually the business-as-usual capitalists and neoconservatives won their precursor to "drill, baby, drill," hippies sold out to Wall Street, and pollution became more pervasive if less visible. In the meantime such visionary texts as Small is Beautiful, Muddling Toward Frugality, and The Limits to Growth have gathered dust on the shelf, awaiting the curious and hopefully-not-too-desperate, inviting us to rethink nearly 4 decades of intervening policy. All three are on my short list, either checked out or on hold through my public library.

But until I get to crack open these tomes, I think The Lorax encapsulates pretty well the conflict between growth-dependent industrial capitalism and sustainability. For all it's kid-friendly simplicity it is still a fairly accurate and potent parable for what we have done with our natural resources.