Mother Earth to Millions, We Have a Problem

Oil Booms & Bird Habitat – NWF visits important bird rookery

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

Americans acknowledge there is a problem.  Petroleum pours out from a broken pipe.  Thousands of barrels of fuel flow freely through the Gulf of Mexico, just as they have for more than a month.  Plants, animals, and people are affected.  People express distress.  Millions are dismayed. What can BP do. Indeed what can any company or citizens do? Most call upon the President. Mister Obama, the electorate pleads, please, protect us.  These same citizens ignore that the protection we need is from ourselves.  Our present circumstances are a reflection of our past.  Many Americans have forgotten an earlier time, when another of this country’s Chief Executives attempted to avoid the nightmare we experience today.

In 2010, people, plants and animals cry out in pain.  In 1977,  Americans laughed at Jimmy Carter when he appeared on television donned in a sweater.  President Carter had only been in Office for two weeks.  Decades ago, Mister Carter warned Americans.  The nation’s leader explained, if we continued to be as dependent on oil as we were, and are today, terrestrial doom would be our future.  Yet, few heeded the call.  Most did not take the President’s proclamation seriously.  Then, and now, citizens prefer to guzzle petroleum and plunge further into what we think of as the good life.  Our gluttonous ways have threatened the planet for a very long time.

As we gaze upon oil-soaked birds on our Gulf Stream beaches, or listen to the words of British Petroleum’s President, people ponder only the present.   However, our history haunts us.  Our choices in the last century have created what comes ashore in this millennium.  Tarballs.  Dead animals including dolphins, and pelicans,  have perished.  So many species affected, all unable to survive the sludge.

This is not a novel reality.  Americans, indeed, those in worldwide-civilized countries, have experienced similar catastrophes.  Nonetheless, humans persist.  People do as they desire to do.  Today, after the rig ruptured, man-“kind” engages in preventable hazardous activities, just as we have done before.  

E.O. Wilson, a noted Harvard Professor and Researcher observes, “(F)or every animal celebrity that vanishes, biologists can point to thousands of species of plants and smaller animals either recently extinct or on the brink.”  The numbers can only be estimated. However, Professor Wilson believes that those gone from an Earthly existence are in the many thousands.  Regardless of the exact calculation, scientists agree; Humans driving extinction faster than species can evolve.  

“Measuring the rate at which new species evolve is difficult, but there’s no question that the current extinction rates are faster  . . . I think it’s inevitable,” said Simon Stuart, Chair of the Species Survival Commission for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  The organization which officially declares species threatened and extinct cautions, as other conservation experts have.  The world is in the grip of the “sixth great extinction” of species.

Humans have undone the natural balance.  People drive destruction.  Our craving for crude oil and coal kills natural habitats.  We hunt in ways that hurt the ecosystem, spread alien predators and promote disease.  The cruelty of climate change cannot be measured.

Even so, two-legged mortals carry on without care for their Mother, Nature.  

We allow what we cannot control or comprehend.  For a barrel full of petroleum, Mother Earth’s blood perhaps, or the baby she held safely in her womb. For centuries, man-“kind” drills deep into her skin, the Earth’s surface. Oh, of course scientists and the common folks surmise that man can do so without peril, regardless of “spills” or the effect of these on the environment.   People wish to profess; we understand the relationship between Mother Nature and Texas Tea, or Louisiana Sea crude.  Yet, might we consider what is evident?

Today’s Americans are as people in the past were.  We are good at believing what we want to think true.  We criticize and ridicule anyone or action that place our personal comfort in jeopardy.  We chuckle when someone says we need to change!  We worry only about our cash flow.  A crippled economy concerns us more than birds, fish, fowl, flora, and the coral reef.

A Governor’s decree in support of sustaining the oil industry while his wetlands and workers struggle to survive only serves to solidify what animals, mammals, and amphibian creatures already knew.  Mankind is crueler than any other critter; and yet, he or she calls him or herself humane.

Please may we acknowledge that we are part of the planet? We need not be the perpetual problem.  Let us act as the Mother Earth’s Shepherd would and be the solution.

References for a reality known long ago, realized, and ignored . . ..

Let Them Eat Oil

President Jimmy Carter – Address to the Nation on Energy

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

In a nation, where appeasement is condemned, Americans are anxious.  The people have been pacified for so long they can no longer recall what it means to be other than indulged.  On June 6, 2008, Congresspersons, uncomfortable with the notion that they might have to use the rod, concluded, for now, it is better to spoil the already pampered Americans.  Lawmakers said, as they have so often, “Let them eat oil!”  After all, the people love petroleum.

Rather than rescind policies that contribute to global warming, or the related scarcity of food and water Legislators declared defeat.  Hope for change was put off for the future, just as it was one score and ten years ago.  Now, nearly a decade into the twenty-first century, the United States Congress concluded a bipartisan  Bill, intended to control climate conditions must die.  The hope was postponed, again.  The dream differed until 2009.

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, cautioned climate change is “the most important issue facing the world today.”  However, apparently, it is not imperative enough to counter the cries of despair heard from the American people.  Citizens in this country think cash in hand counts for more than the health of the planet.

The public is easily able to dismiss evidence; Mother Earth is in trouble.  Extinction threatens every species.  Even humans are at risk.  Pollutants fill the air that men, women, and children breath.  Poison is found in the rivers and stream.  Toxins travel through the ecosystem.  There are consequences to what we do.  Global warming is but a warning, one not heeded by Americans who prefer to remain sheltered from talk of environmental storms.

Co-authors of the measure designed to limit heat-trapping gases, California Democrat, Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut envision the demise of the Bill was a win.  The three expressed a shared joy.  Perchance lawmakers are closer to an agreement.  Might it be that Legislators are more unified in an attempt to appease Americans.  The Senate was just shy of consensus.

Conventional wisdom states, “There is time.”  The world can wait.  Evidence does not suggest a need to act immediately.  Next year will be better.  In actuality, politicians did just as the people prefer.  Government officials did not ask the people to forego creature comforts.  Regulations on industry were not increased.  

While the people insist someone must pay for the drastic rise in petroleum prices, most suspect, ultimately, the cost will be passed on to the common folk.

Perchance, that is why Congress was willing to probe profit margins.  The people wanted an explanation; why do they pay exorbitant prices at the pump.  It mattered not that the expectation proved to be the reality.  When tycoons who produce Texas tea were asked of the high cost of fuel, they sang the same old song. What was important is the sense the people had after the hearing.  They had tried to make the big bosses accountable.  The public demands little, insists on less.  Yet, as coddled children who covet a toy just out of reach, they protest loudly.  

Members of Congress, the President of the United States, and Oil Executives understand this.  Each has perfected the art of appeasement.  Give the people what they please.  Then positions and profits will remain secure.  Explanations and examinations reassure the masses and best of all for those comfortable and cozy in millions of cars nothing changes.  Certainly, circumstances dictate all must remain the same, and while few admit it, all are pleased.

The executives firmly insisted that global market forces beyond their control were to blame for high prices.  “As repetitive and uninteresting as it may sound, the fundamental laws of supply and demand are at work,” said John Hofmeister, the president of Shell Oil Company.

(Of course, it was repetitive and uninteresting: Mr. Hofmeister read the same line in his testimony the day before.)

The executives politely but just as firmly insisted that Congress should focus its efforts on allowing more drilling and exploration for domestic oil – in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, offshore in the Atlantic and Pacific, and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.  They insisted that they were investing heavily in search of new oil supplies.

And they strongly warned against other measures: any new tax on profits would put American companies at a disadvantage and only further decrease oil supply; a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax would increase demand and only raise prices more; lawsuits against foreign nations would do nothing to lower prices.

The public may not trust the moneyed moguls; nor do they respect the Representatives.  Nonetheless, the people are silently satisfied.  Few if any wish to give up the freedom they feel as they drive down the road alone, or with one special passenger.  Convenience is comfortable.  The people do not wish to pay the price for alternative energy.  The actual cost may not frighten Americans; the idea that they may need to forfeit a familiar lifestyle terrifies the average citizen.

Months ago, when gas was relatively cheap, cars barely crawled on clogged highways.  Yet, few did more than grumble.  People were essentially cozy cocooned in snug Sports Utility Vehicles, mini-vans, sedans, coupes, and cute convertibles.  Children were pleasantly preoccupied.  Digital Video Discs entertained the young and other occupants as they lounged in leather seats.  Drivers pounded out tunes on the dashboard or punched cellular telephone keyboards.  Travel was a pleasure.  

Some treasured the hours spent on the road.  Life was good not so long ago.  Few complained.  Less requested freedom from fossil fuels.  Progressives may have postured; it is time for a change.  However, few fled from their automobiles.  The price of petroleum may have transformed their habits temporarily.

On Friday, (May 23, 2008) the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reported that Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles in March 2008 than in March 2007.  According to the FHWA, that’s the sharpest drop since the agency began keeping records in 1942.

Calculate Risk provides some context:

This is only the third time since 1970 that the year-over-year change in total U.S. miles driven has declined.  The previous two times were following the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 — and led to the two most severe U.S. recessions since WWII.

Drivers, some now riders, rejoice.  History teaches us economic downturn do not last.  This too shall pass.  Most anticipate the shift is but a provisional switch.  Indeed, Americans work to receive assurance.  They rant and rage.

The President of the United States hears the cries.  He responds.  In April 2008, as Americans clamored for affordable fuel George W. Bush eloquently expressed elucidations to calm the citizenry.  As a Mom or Dad might soothe a baby who bawls incessantly disturbs the parent who only wishes to please his or her progeny, President Bush proposed we do as has long satisfied spoiled Americans.  George W. Bush proposes oil companies provide the people with what they want, more petroleum at prices the electorate likes.

As a self-proclaimed steward of the environment, the President said he would never wish to harm the land.  He assured Americans, if we were to drill for fuel in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR] that would be responsible stewardship, regardless of what some scientist say.  Mister Bush declared if Americans simply increase the supply of fossil fuels, demand would be met.  After all, is that not the goal.  Give the baby a bottle of sweet crude and they will stop crying.

Studies show oil pumped from the Artic would have little impact on the cost or availability of petroleum; however, that information is less significant than immediate gratification might be.  John McCain understands this.  He is sensitive to the research and to the millions who intellectually reject the claims the Chief Executive makes.  Senator McCain has a reputation for being a maverick.  He relates to people who, in the twenty-first century, are more environmentally conscious.  The Grand Old Party nominee knows the citizens can no longer be cajoled to believe drills do no damage.  In the Information Age, the electorate is enlightened.  

John McCain is cognizant; the people will only be persuaded to do as they desire if a Presidential aspirant promises to reduce greenhouse gases.  Therefore, he proposes a cap and trade solution.  This policy would allow companies to buy and sell emission credits.  Those who wish to splurge and surge the grid can continue to do so.  Energy exploiters can garner greater credit from those who are prepared to scrimp.  The people who prefer to remain plugged in can.  Those who wish to leave a smaller carbon footprint may do so.  Everyone will be happy, and energy policies will not substantially change what is.

In remarks prepared for delivery Monday at a Portland, Ore., wind turbine manufacturer, the presidential contender says expanded nuclear power must be considered to reduce carbon-fuel emissions.  He also sets a goal that by 2050, the country will reduce carbon emissions to a level 60 percent below that emitted in 1990.

Americans are again gratified.  Change can be delayed.  There is no rush to an energy revolution.  Indeed, this proposal will furnish fission and not provide an authentic substantive solution.  McCain’s Nuclear Waste could possibly contaminate the ground water.  The senior Senator does not discuss the need to prevent nuclear proliferation, the problem with security at nuclear facilities.  Indeed, speculation is John McCain is a proponent of nuclear energy for political reasons.  Imagine that.  Assuage the people who have the power and finances to further a career and all will be well.

Senator McCain and the people, rich and poor, will retain the luxury that has long been essential.  The public and the official can portray themselves as environmentalists.  Yet, they need not abandon the way of life that has sustained them.  John McCain states as many Americans do.

As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy . . .

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR] I believe is a pristine place.  I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades . . .

I believe that climate change is real.  It’s not just a greenhouse gas issue.  It’s a national security issue.??

However, Senator McCain has a record.  He voted against tax credits to promote research.  The League of Conservation Voters granted Senator McCain a zero rating on environmental issues.  In 2007, the supposed ecological standard-bearer McCain missed all 15 critical environmental votes in the Senate.  In the course of his Senatorial lifetime, only twenty-four (24) percent of the time did John McCain vote in favor of conservation.

McCain Missed Opportunity To End Big Oil Tax Breaks to Invest in Clean Energy.  In 2007, McCain was the only senator who failed to vote on a motion to invoke cloture (thus limiting debate) on the Energy Independence and Security Act.  This vote was about whether to close $13 billion in tax breaks for major oil and gas companies to invest in new clean energy technologies such as wind and solar, and efficiency.  Sixty votes were required for passage.  The motion was rejected 59-40.  (; HR 6, Vote #425, 12/13/07)

Actually, all Americans have a history that contradicts what they say is their truth.  We, the people consume and waste, we purchase and pollute.  We scrounge for energy-wise merchandise.  Then, we buy not the most environmentally efficient product, but the best bargain.  Many of us know what we did in the past, although we do not wish to speak of it.

Only years after citizens of this country waited in long lines for fuel, as a nation, Americans mused of the humorous hours they spent engrossed in an energy crisis.  Once more, the public concluded it was time for a change; yet, they proved that transformation was not what they really wanted.

In 1976, the people elected an Executive Officer who did not wish to appease the people.  On January 30, 1977, Jimmy Carter said what he reiterated days later on February 2, 1977; two weeks after the former farmer took office.  The President engaged the public in a fireside chat.  Donned in a casual cardigan sweater Mister Carter somberly said . . .

(T)he United States is the only major industrial country without a comprehensive, long-range energy policy . . . our failure to plan for the future or to take energy conservation seriously – started long before this winter, and it will take much longer to solve.

I realize that many of you have not believed that we really have an energy problem.  But this winter has made all of us realize that we have to act . . .

Our program will emphasize conservation.  The amount of energy being wasted which could be saved is greater than the total energy that we are importing from foreign countries.

The American people looked, listened, and laughed at a President who would suggest.  “All of us must learn to waste less energy.  Simply by keeping our thermostats, for instance, at 65 degrees in the daytime and 55 degrees at night we could save half the current shortage of natural gas.”  

Citizens in this, the wealthiest nation in the world thought there was no need to worry.  There never is.  Americans are encouraged to live in the moment.  This petroleum predicament would pass.  The people then, just as now, ignored the cautions.  Months later, President Jimmy Carter offered  . . .

(Energy, the supply and demand) is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.

We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.

Yet, in the past and in the present, the public, while intellectually eager to leave a lush legacy for the progeny, does not wish to think of  how what we do establishes the future.  Few Moms and Dads ponder the profundity of energy policies.  Prices are the only issue of import to the common folk.  Countless will contact their Representatives to complain; the cost of gas is too high.  Who will call and say, let the price of fuel rise?  Americans cannot continue to eat oil.

Certainly, it will not be the millions pacified or the few who cling to the words of a scientist or two who scoff, humans have little effect on the environment.  Will the people who read recent reports realize the need for immediate change.  Will the informed relent and say, “I will no longer be placated,” or will they respond to this energy crisis as they did in the last century when there was still time to correct the calamity that may now be out of our control?

Our countrymen may be content as spoiled children are.  Perhaps, Americans will again stomp their feet, hold their breath, pound on the table and buy a gas-guzzler regardless of the admonition.  The public may say, “Give me, give me, give me what I want, or else!”  Let me eat oil, or maybe, just maybe, the childish ways of Americans will be gone with the wind.  We can only hope that the people will no longer crave pacification and conciliation.

Our Resources and References . . .

Bush; Historic High. President’s Performance Low in Polls

Newsweek poll: “51% of ALL voters impeachment a priority!

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Six months ago, in a Newsweek Poll the people favored impeachment.  However, that did not happen.  What has occurred is President Bush has hit an all time high, a new low in political surveys.  His approval rating has dipped down to twenty-six [26] percent according to the most recent Newsweek Opinion Poll conducted by the Princeton Survey Research Associates International.  George W. Bush, a man that often states history will judge his performance, and polls numbers are meaningless, leaves a legacy comparable to that of Richard Milhous Nixon.

In January 1974, seven months after leaving the Oval Office in disgrace, President Nixon?s approval ratings were grim.  The numbers approving of the two-term President plummeted to a low of twenty-three [23] percent.

As well as George W. Bush is doing statistically, he has yet to achieve what the man mired in the Watergate Scandal did. 

Perhaps impeachment is the current President’s goal.  He may wish to accomplish a mission more historic than any other President.  Mister Bush is certainly well on his way to realizing what no other Commander-In-Chief has.  With little effort George W. Bush’s could surpass the Nixon record. 

George W. Bush has realized what Jimmy Carter was unable to.  President Carter?s popularity plunged to twenty-eight [28] percent in a Gallup poll conducted in June 1979.  Jimmy was never able to compete with Dick.

Yet, as we can see, George is doing well.  Were Mister Bush assessed solely on his war record, the numbers would be better.

A record 73 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Bush has done handling Iraq. Despite ?the surge? in U.S. forces into Baghdad and Iraq?s western Anbar province, a record-low 23 percent of Americans approve of the president’s actions in Iraq, down 5 points since the end of March.

But the White House cannot pin his rating on the war alone. Bush scores record or near record lows on every major issue: from the economy (34 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove) to health care (28 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove) to immigration (23 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove). And?in the worst news, perhaps, for the crowded field of Republicans hoping to succeed Bush in 2008?50 percent of Americans disapprove of the president?s handling of terrorism and homeland security. Only 43 percent approve, on an issue that has been the GOP?s trump card in national elections since 9/11.

Yes, George W. Bush has done well.  You might recall, while campaigning for the presidency in 1999, Candidate Bush promised he would bring this divided nation together.  He has. The people of the United States of America almost unanimously agree; we do not approve of the way you are handling your job as President.

Congratulations George.  You are the man!  With thanks to all your “hard” work, this nation is finally thinking as one.

Congress is so impressed with your feat they are working to follow in your foot steps.

Overall, 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, including 60 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Independents.

These numbers look good.  They reflect the height of hypocrisy.  Do the opposite of what you say and people will take notice. The Executive and the Legislative Branches have branded themselves as high achievers.  We the people must be proud or pitiful.  These are the persons we elected to govern.  Yikes.

Survey the Sources . . .

  • Bush’s approval rating continues to plummet. Independent Online. June 21, 2007
  • Historians vs. George W. Bush, By Robert S. McElvaine.  History New Network.
  • Majority Predicts History Will Judge Bush Harshly, By Lydia Saad. Gallup Poll. December 13, 2006
  • Newsweek Poll: June 21, 2007: Conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
  • Polling Report.
  • How Low Can He Go? MSNBC News. June 21, 2007
  • Can Bush Bring Us Together? By Eric Pooley.  Time. December 17, 2000
  • Transcript: First Presidential Debate.  Washington Post. September 30, 2004