As I write this, it looks like the BP – Deepwater Horizon oil spill may actually be coming to an end. The actual spillage, anyway. Despite the White House’s claim that three quarters of the oil spilled is now gone, the effects of this spill will last a very long time, and affect a countless number of lives in and around the Gulf of Mexico, and the whole world beyond. The ecology of the sea and the land around it has been changed, possibly forever, definitely not for the better.
I’ve been thinking for a few weeks that it would be worthwhile to put this incident into a greater context by telling the stories of other cases in our history of industrial disasters, toxic spills and mass pollutions. The truth is that nothing that’s happened in the Deepwater Horizon case is really new.
We’ve spilled it all before.
I’ve decided that before I start writing I would ask of anyone who is reading this: is it worthwhile? Would you be interested in finding out a little more about some past disasters, the lessons we could have learned from them, the motives that led to them which are not so different as those which inform BP’s actions before and after the Macondo well blew out? Or maybe someone’s already done this, and so there’s no need for me to cover that ground again. I admit, I think it would be great if that were the case.
Some of the incidents I’ve thought about covering:
- the molasses flood in Boston, January 1919: though it sounds like a joke, it killed more people than died aboard the Deepwater Horizon
- the toxic gas leak in Bhopal, December 1984: thousands died and the court cases drag on, one of them ending only this year
the tragedy of Minamata, where a large corporation denied and covered up the truth of its deadly pollution for decades
And plenty others besides. Sadly, there’s no shortage.
So please. Speak up in the comments and let me know what you think. Is it time for a history lesson?
“It seems no one reads Santayana any more. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over there, getting drunk with the rest of the aliens.” — Susan Ivanova, Babylon 5