Sunday, June 20, 2010

Before the Chandeleurs were ruined

Among my summer reading list books is Alan Weisman's The World Without Us. I suspect the author has appeared on talk shows, on NPR interviews, in the NYRB discussing his book. I'm 3/4 through the book, and won't recommend it. Unfortunately, I think most of the premise is pretty trite, more along the lines of a science fiction story a la Robert Heinlein than a methodical account of natural history without humans. His examples and individual episodes are well researched and thoughtful, but when he throws in sentences that begin "Without humans..." I lose interest. With one foot in fact and another in supposition, his argument is hard to digest, his concepts of vibrant ecosystems reclaiming land in a historic landscape destroyed by agriculture, soils and microorganisms suffocated and permanently altered by concrete and chemicals, are based merely in wishful thinking.

Amidst his oddly positive book portending the world without human intervention, he references incidents of insouciance by BP long before the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred. Even if the general public had known in 2006 that BP was awarded the honor of "America's biggest polluter" by the EPA, I doubt anyone would have cared. But here, in an excerpt from The World Without Us, evidence that the company couldn't care less about their holdings across the pond before April 2010:

In March, 2005, a geyser of liquid hydrocarbons erupted from one of BP's isomerization stacks. When it hit the air, it ignited and killed 15 people. That July, at the same plant, a hydrogen pipe exploded. In August, a gas leak reeking of rotten eggs, which signals toxic hydrogen sulfide, shut much of BP down for a while. Days later, at a BP plastics manufacturing sibsidiary 15 miles south of Chocolate Bayou, flames exploded 50 ft. in the air. The blaze had to be left to burn itself out. It took 3 days.

So we've known for at least 5 years that BP is negligent. Why are we still discussing it and not doing more about it?

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