Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The light at the end of the oil spill tunnel

Paul Krugman had a column in The Times on Monday with which I totally agree. That's hardly news because I usually agree with his columns - some more than others. He says things that I want to say but he says them so much more intelligently and persuasively. And he has a slightly larger audience than I do. Plus there's that Nobel Prize thing...

But anyway, I thought he made a particularly cogent point about this awful oil spill that is consuming our attention. (It seems that we have little time for the flooding disasters that are happening in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, or the would-be bomber of Times Square because we are mesmerized by the sight of that gigantic oil slick sliding, virtually unimpeded so far, toward our coast.) And now that our attention is focused, let us hope that people who are concerned about the environment and who are concerned about the efficacy and safety of offshore drilling can make their points to the public. It seems that the public might finally be ready to listen now that the "Drill, baby, drill!" crowd has suddenly gone silent.

And that was at the heart of what Krugman was saying in his column. The impetus for the growth of the environmental movement back in the late '60s and early '70s was a series of ecological disasters - oil spills, the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, Lake Erie "dying"; the list went on and on. People finally became sufficiently outraged to get off their butts and try to do something about it. And it worked. Much has been accomplished in the last 40-50 years. The Cuyahoga River was cleaned up; Lake Erie did not die; restraints were put on oil-drilling and it was banned in some places, such as offshore in sensitive areas; the air in Los Angeles is cleaner today, and so on. Perhaps people have become complacent because of these accomplishments.

Then the president announces that he's okay with some offshore drilling in order to try to get some Republicans to support a climate bill. Next thing you know this rig blows and we've got oil gushing into the Gulf.

Will this re-energize the environmental movement and gain it some new adherents? One can only hope so. The environment needs all the friends and allies it can get. A re-energized and vigilant environmental movement would be a bright light at the end of this terrible tunnel. But what a price to pay for it.

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