April 30, 2010

Environmental Catastrophe

If someone could cogently argue that this was the work of terrorists we'd be in even deeper trouble, but it is incredible enough as it is. The unstoppable oil spewing from a mile below the surface of the Gulf is becoming one of the worst environmental disasters the world has seen. If the oil follows its projected path around the panhandle and up the Atlantic coast of the U.S. it will be perceived as unthinkably worse. Already an ecosystem is being trashed and an entire way of life and living among the human and non-human animals is in serious danger of being dramatically changed. So far we only have a superficial understanding of the depth and breadth of this slow moving catastrophe.

In May of 2008, a Gallup poll showed that fifty-seven percent of a random sample of Americans supported off shore drilling and drilling in environmentally sensitive areas that were at that time forbidden. That support included 80% of republications, 56% of independents and 39% of democrats (see Majority of Americans Support Drilling in Off-Limits Areas). To the dismay of his democratic supporters, President Obama ordered the expansion of off shore drilling.

In light of the Gulf environmental catastrophe that is currently underway, and which portends damage far in excess of what we have seen, we see the consequences of Obama's centrist politics and the actual consequences of pursuing environmental actions that environmentalists have steadfastly opposed and republicans have supported. One only hopes that the Obama administration will get the message. The field of environmental criminology is especially relevant in this context. Damage to the environment is for some difficult to comprehend or quantify. The inevitable civil remedies, and perhaps criminal, that citizen, government or environmental groups will attempt to bring to bear on this situation will face formidable challenges against some of the most powerful forces in the world today--especially in the face of increasingly more tenable claims of declining fossil fuels. A more manageable approach might be to seek criminal wrongdoing charges against executives of the oil industry who allowed people to work under conditions that were likely to cause death. How the environmental damage is constructed and the forces of justice directed to satisfactorily resolve the enormous damages and grievances here will take years or decades to resolve, if they ever are.

California's Governor has decided to back off his position to support drilling off the coast in light of the Gulf disaster. Let's hope others will follow.

Posted by jackson at April 30, 2010 10:40 AM