Why The BP Oil Spill Is Not Anyone’s Katrina

Jun 03, 10 Why The BP Oil Spill Is Not Anyone’s Katrina
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Many people are attempting to draw parallels between the unprecedented disaster occurring in the Gulf of Mexico and slowly spreading to the Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida coastlines and Hurricane Katrina. However, comparing this man-made disaster to an act of nature whose damage was aided by human failure partially absolves BP of some of their culpability. As a victim of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, I watched helplessly as the storm tore into the Gulf Coast. I was sad, frightened, and confused. Yet, I did not become angry until I found out the levees failed because of human incompetence and neglect.

Watching workers clean the oil off Louisiana pelicans, I am also sad. But, in addition to the sadness I feel a rage that I can scarcely articulate. I am angry because this disaster did not have to happen. It occurred because our public policy is severely flawed and thoroughly corrupted by special interests. It occurred because greed trumped caution and prudence. It is unprecedented because of human overreach and a lack of respect for nature and her gifts. As a result, the brightest minds on the planet are unable to plug a hole, albeit one that is 5,000 feet below the ocean surface and should have never had been dug in the first place.

Many people are criticizing Mr. Obama for his seeming lack of empathy. This false criticism obscures the real problems with Mr. Obama’s response. Instead of marshaling a stronger federal reaction to this tragedy, Mr. Obama admittedly trusted the very same corporations that have continually gouged the American people and shown disdain for the environment. Why would he assume that they had a viable contingency plan to deal with this situation when early evidence revealed that BP had repeatedly sought regulatory exemptions and circumvented federal inspectors in order to keep drilling unsafely? BP did this even though their own internal reports stated that there were serious problems with their equipment and practices.

Once again, the Gulf Region of the United States, one of the most culturally vibrant and economically important areas of the country, has been ill served by the federal government. However, what makes this tragedy worse than Katrina is that it was preventable. A hands off government, weaned on thirty years of laissez-faire economic policy, has proven unable perform the most basic function of providing security and stability for its citizens. All we can do is stand by idly as our air, land, and water is polluted for profit.

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