Sunday, June 20, 2010


Once every decade there is a photo that captures the eye and stays in the memory, evoking either horror, pride or amusement. Thus the photo of the military raising the flag on Iwo Jima is recognized by just about everyone, and who could forget the picture of the joyous sailor embarking from his ship to kiss the gal waiting for him on San Francisco's wharf?

Two photos from the last decade will stay with me forever. One is that image from Abu Ghraib, with a prisoner tied to a rough imitation of a cross, stripped of his clothing, his dignity, his humanity. There is no sense of national pride when one views such a picture. It brings a sense of shame to think that our countrymen could sink so low.

The other photo I will never forget is the view of that spewing, deadly fountain of oil roaring upward from its broken source. On television every day, it is like a perpetual reminder that human beings may have finally succeeded in their determination to ruin this planet. It is bad enough that we have strewn pop bottles and plastic and cigarette butts along the roads and the beaches. It's another to have that gusher destroying an entire ecosystem.

There doesn't seem to be anyone in the world who knows how to turn off this roaring, dangerous and constantly bellowing spigot. We have very little control of it. It is Mother Nature being vengeful, angry and merciless, reacting to recklessness and utter disdain for the treasures we have been given. There was a lack of safety measures, a disdain for the consequences of what might happen, a search for greater profits by a huge Corporation with tremendous profits earned already.

As I write this, thousands...perhaps millions...of animals are gasping and dying, coated with the black liquid we have often called Black Gold. We feed on this substance, we have made it a God. We have paid billions of dollars for the privilege of using it. Most of it has been imported from distant lands, the very lands that house the terrorists that threaten our demise. These lands have customs very different from our own. Their women are hidden behind veils and live minus freedoms that we take for granted.

Despite the terrorism, the inequality, the misery...we have enriched these nations and bought their oil. Huge tankers arrive at our ports every day as we devour this substance, this thick black juice that fuels our nation.

But getting the oil from foreign countries isn't enough to please us. We must seek oil on our own land. So we have found it in Alaska, where the pipeline sits like a huge, winding snake stretching across the wilderness. We have found it in our Western states and in Texas, where the oil provides some employment. Even that isn't enough to satisfy our hunger. We looked toward the oceans to find even more.

Oil rigs are ugly. They rear up on the horizon like warts on flesh, ruining the scenic beauty of the ocean. They are ugly enough when they are working as they should, but get even uglier when they explode and kill. Yes, eleven workers were killed on the rig they dared call Deepwater Horizon, and I'll warrant there have been other deaths on many other rigs.

These deaths are disturbing, these dead fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, grieved by their families and gone forever. In the meantime, the oil continues to gush, with no mercy for the chaos it causes, and the Corporation hides truth because of fears for their profits.

Somewhere in the Southern ocean, a brown pelican is dying, sodden with oil and lacking understanding. It's HER ocean that has always been her home, this gentle, sweet creature who loves to sit on posts, sitting there looking over the world she belongs in, the world she should always find safe.

It is you and I who destroyed this pelican's world with our hunger for oil and our love of our cars. We haven't taken the time to find another source of fuel. We use the expedient method. We're in a hurry. We don't have the time or the money or the imagination.

Tell that to the brown pelican as she sits with her dripping coat of oil, waiting for the death that will surely overtake her. Tell her we just don't have the ingenuity and determination that we used to have, when we invented all the machines, the technology, the miraculous paraphernalia in the world today. At one time, we managed to send a man into space. Then, we did not stop dreaming, but sent men to the moon and brought them back to earth safely.

We have won wars. We have laid train tracks across the country. We have created the computer and the Internet. We have tossed out the laundry tub and invented the automatic washer. We have made Medical history by banishing polio, smallpox, malaria and other diseases.

So tell the brown pelican we've come to the end of our American spirit. We cannot take oil, oil rigs and oil spills out of our lives and find other fuels that will energize our country, save billions of dollars, and perhaps in the future, thousands of pelicans and other animals from inevitable spills.

We finally have a President who is urging us to move ahead, to harness the wind, and look upward at the sun. With energy abounding in that beautiful Orb, Our Star that supports and nurtures us can send that energy downward to us if we can only capture it.

There is oil on the outer islands. There is oil in the marshes. There is oil on the beautiful beaches where children used to play. There are thousands of people who now have no jobs. The beautiful Southern shoreline faces years of ruin, with an end to fishing, shrimping, oyster beds, and birds like the pelican that live on the coast.

The oil spill may spew upward for weeks...or months...or years to come, because man is helpless to halt it unless the relief wells work. So, let us plan on some relief of our own....and find that source of energy that is waiting for us. As Ted Turner has said, "Oil has served us well for more than a century. It's time for something better!"

It is a challenge we can meet. It is a need we can fill. We may have to phase the use of oil out very slowly, but we can accomplish our goal. There IS something better, a country free of fossil fuels, free of dependence on the good will of wildly wealthy sheiks and kings, a country no longer dependent upon oil, a country no longer in danger of another huge oil spill!