Two million gallons of anything is imposing. Kool Aid, peanut butter, pasta… anything in that amount would be a big deal. It would have a kind of power by way of its size. It could certainly take over the room if it wanted to. And it would definitely make a mess. Especially if instead of food, it was that which comes after food.The release of two million gallons of effluent into Santa Monica Bay on January 15 was in itself plenty for us to think about, way before we start attaching any symbolic meaning to it. While we too often to think of the ocean as vast and resilient, anyone who believes this wasn’t an environmental injury of major proportions should try having that amount of effluent dumped in their backyard or basement. When we flush, we don’t think at all about the path of the… material. Mostly we care that it’s NOT in our backyard or basement. But this time, that’s exactly where it went: Into our backyard, which happens to be Santa Monica Bay. According to reports, 100,000 gallons flowed onto beaches. Sanitation District officials have conceded that thousands of gallons may have entered the ocean. Even if you didn’t witness any of this personally, you must admit that images it conjures are a far cry from that animated teddy bear selling the cuddly-soft bathroom tissue. Go to Amazon.com and you’ll find all kinds of charming books to help children navigate the rough sailing of potty training. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a clear, charmingly illustrated text with raccoons and zebras that explains where the millions of gallons of effluent we produce ends up once it leaves our neat, modern homes. I’ll bet you’re already growing tired of this subject, and we haven’t even started on what caused the spill and what people are saying should be done to prevent similar events in the future. Sewage processing, like commercial flying, is just so great when it works and never bothers us with disastrous failure. I’ve never been on a cruise ship because I’m convinced that cruise ship lines are less than good stewards when it comes to waste material on the high seas. There have been too many busts, too many stories, and too many accounts of Costeau’s people finding garbage thousands of miles out at sea. Take a close look at one of those cruise ships on the TV commercials, the ones with mini-golf and rock climbing. Count the stateroom windows and ask yourself where ‘it’ all goes after every partying passenger has hit that buffet. Now think of our planet as the biggest cruise ship in the universe, and it’ll fold your brain conceiving of the gallons and gallons of—Hey now, where is your gaze? Perhaps, like a team of research investigators last week, you were looking up at the heavens. Scientists were very excited about the material returned to earth by the Stardust spacecraft, which traveled seven years and 2.9 billion miles through space to bring back comet particles. Space exhaust. It will be thrilling for researchers to play around in this dust, this debris from space. “Ancient cosmic treasure from the very edge of the solar system.” the principal Stardust investigator told a press conference. Yet meanwhile, back on space cruise ship Earth, there are lessons right in front of us after the spilling of our own “exhaust” into the bay. Upgrades for pumping stations were in progress before the spill. Environmentalists have pitched the building of emergency holding tanks. Collectively, we are trying to keep our s—t together. But this recent failure reminds us that while we often look to the heavens for tomorrow, there is always something more immediate oozing around our ankles today. This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz1) The stock market plummeted amidst fears (a) of a faltering economy. (b) the heat was off I-PODs. (c) the heat was on the GOP.2) A whale made its way to (a) the Thames River in London. (b) the front row at an Eagles concert. (c) v.p. of sales at General Motors.3) Augusto Pinochet lost his immunity (a) from overdue book fines. (b) against abuse and torture charges. (c) to germs from people he’s killed. Answer Key1) (a) “Honey, sell the Humvee…”2) (a) “Wait… is that Thatcher…?”3) (b) “Get me Robert Blake’s guys…”
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