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Going all NIMBY on the oil spill…:

There can be all kinds of pitfalls in the writing of a newspaper column. Much as one might better serve their audience by writing about events and issues that are “local”, there is always the siren song of the bigger canvas. This column, for example, has resisted as best it can the temptation to serve-up funny attack pieces on ripe targets like Sarah Palin and Wall Street greed. It helps that thousands of other writers cannot resist, and knowing that all that blather is out there means I’m not required to jump in. Conversely, to fixate on a handful of local issues can make it appear a writer is going all “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) and developing a myopia causing him to miss the bigger picture.

All that said, I believe the BP oil rig spill in the Gulf of Mexico does (and should) impact us locally. At the risk of sounding sophomoric… imagine that spill happening right off our shores here in Santa Monica. If the Gulf disaster makes you depressed in its current location, think about encountering all that oil industry muck on our own beaches. I believe that’s exactly how we should start thinking about it.

The catastrophic collision of extreme nature with poor government that we’ve come to refer to as “Katrina” woke us up to the simple fact that when disaster strikes we are all in it together. While I don’t feel personally responsible for the levees failing in New Orleans, it was my federal government that failed to make that area safe from that kind of assault from severe weather. An assault that could have and should have been anticipated in the construction of the systems there. And there’s every indication that in the earliest days following the disaster the response was less than it should have been simply because Katrina didn’t strike an area of expensive homes owned by Republican donors. “Brownie” did do “a heck of a job”… of reflecting how often there are two Americas.

We are, in a convoluted and sad way, blessed by the Gulf spill. Because we now have it every which way from Sunday that offshore oil drilling must stop, and that our appetite for oil in this country must be turned into a mandate for alternative energy sources. We just got “served” by the Department of Why Are We Sitting on Our Hands and Prevaricating about Energy and we all know it. The message of the BP spill is clear, regardless of how clown news channels may frame their haggling about it.

Wildlife and ecosystems will endure the hurt, but this time the humiliation and the stink of the spill are all over us because we’ve had these sickening spills before and yet continued our foul relationship with oil. Alaska, Santa Barbara… this isn’t like trying to understand something catastrophic and horrible that happened so long ago we can’t remember. On so many levels, but especially in terms of our legacy to this planet we call home, oil doesn’t work… except to make a select few richer. And we all know it.

But first things first. Two weeks ago this column argued that the candidates for governor of our state could not and should not hedge or talk in muddy generalizations about offshore drilling. After the Gulf disaster even our current governor woke up and smelled the crude, retracting his support for offshore drilling. Now it’s time for those who desire to lead to clearly state who it is they represent. From 2000 to 2008 we were crystal clear on this as it regarded the White House: Bush/Cheney represented oil and sent our children to Iraq to die for it. We need that kind of clarity in the upcoming election of a new governor, and it should take the form of emphatic and uncompromising statements.

This is why candidate Jerry Brown must not hedge his position on offshore drilling. He wants to be governor, so I get it that he can’t just come out and denounce big oil and chastise our dependence on it. But Brown currently asserts on his website that “California needs a leader who can pull people together: Democrats and Republicans, oil companies and environmentalists, unions and business.” Well, Jerry, good luck with that oil/environmentalists summit. Oil will open with a speech citing the economy and jobs, and then the environmentalists will present data about what the Gulf spill has in fact done to the economy and jobs in the affected areas. Then somebody from the enviros will dump a gallon of crude smuggled into the meeting right into the laps of the oil reps, shouting “Put an undersea dome on that, punk!”

Again… if we imagine that the sludge is on our beaches here in Santa Monica then we can easily share the thought that that which does not kill us makes us angrier at corporate intransigence on environmental degradation. Offshore oil rigs fail, and when they do they pollute and destroy. That happens, and the evidence is overwhelming. By design offshore rigs are an environmental disaster in waiting, and there’s no longer any wiggle room left for those who in six months will again begin arguing for more of them. Californians deciding on a governor can draw that line in the sand now, before the line is once again drawn in black ooze by “America’s need for oil.” There is no partisan debate in the assertion that the oceans are not toilets for energy companies. On this one, it’s everybody’s backyard.


Mirror Contributing Writeropinion@smmirror.com

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