Katrina in the Waves? I Think Not.

You might as well play this peppy little number as background music while you read, because I think we could all use a little feel-good right now:

Seems that it is becoming fashionable to compare the current administration’s response to the BP oil spill to the prior administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

I saw another variation on this theme just now, a “‘please post this as your status if you agree” meme-in-training on Facebook:

So where are all the “Save the Gulf” concerts? Where are the TV benefits with the celebrities & musicians giving heartfelt speeches on the poor fisherman, wildlife, beaches, loss of income and sabotaged Gulf economy? I find it rather strange how these people (including our own government) are so quick to help Haiti & other countries, but sit on their asses for this American disaster. POST IN SUPPORT

Thought-provoking, but only to a point.

When natural disasters strike, we look for  a strong and immediate government response followed quickly by support from the philanthropic/social service sector.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis are natural disasters. The oil spill, in contrast, is a disaster in nature created by a private corporation.

We don’t really have a protocol for that, especially when it happens thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, and especially when most (although clearly & tragically not all – I do not minimize in any way the lost lives of the rig workers) of the human impact is invisible and economic instead of physical.

OK, we have some protocols, like those for an explosion at a power plant, but that’s because there is a great risk of immediate bodily harm to people in surrounding areas AND because government regulations require plants on land to have such plans in place.

We can’t exactly tell the porpoises and pelicans to shelter in place. We can’t evacuate the shrimp or the marsh grasses.

I’m trying to imagine what nonprofit could step in to raise funds and then administer them in an equitable fashion for the spill. We don’t really have an economic-, environmental- or animal-focused equivalent of the Red Cross.

Another issue is access to the source of the spill. That well? PRIVATE PROPERTY. Can you imagine the hue and cry from the property-rights-at-any-cost folks if the government demanded access and control over the well?

This disaster of a disaster recovery isn’t about a failed government response to a natural disaster, and it isn’t about an us versus them approach to government aid.

This disaster is about a system so beholden to corporate interests that not enough protections were in place to potentially protect against such a disaster ever happening, or at least to mitigate the severity by having more safeguards in place. It is about a dependence on oil that I have fully participated in for my entire life, and one our economy will be mired in long after the marshes have healed and the birds have (let’s hope) returned.

I suspect that everyone is still trying to figure out how to funnel resources to the right people who are either truly and immediately harmed by this or effectively and efficiently stepping in to clean up what BP cannot.

Hard work ahead.

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