The Mancos Valley reverberates with the gush of her namesake river in a ritual rite of spring melt. These snow-melt waters are nothing short of a metaphoric cleanse; a spiritual barometer that prods one to let winter’s frozen issues melt and wash away. And of course, in this high mountain ranching valley, it signals the first spouts of water through irrigation spigots and onto dormant hay fields. The swallows return and rebuild their mud nests under the eaves of the barn; foals hug their mothers’ sides under newly-leafed cottonwoods. All is rebirth and rejuvenation.
This, as the black, slimy gush fills the Gulf of Mexico. A flood of oil so gargantuan it is difficult to wrap our minds around it until we go online or turn on the television. The video of Philippe Cousteau (grandson of Jacques Costeau who brought the mysterious oceans into our living rooms) diving into the sullied waters makes even the toughest heart gasp as he moves through suspended particles of oil and muck, a few large fish in the background. “It’s a nightmare,” he says.
Susan Shaw, a marine toxicologist and Director of the marine Environmental Research Institute took a dive last week as well. She described a, “surreal and sickening scene” as she passed through an orange brown pudding mix of oil and dispersants. She witnessed phytoplankton, zooplankton and shrimp enveloped in dark oil, and larger fish feeding on the poisonous oil dispersal droplets mistaking them for food.
Ask the creatures of the sea: “Who are the terrorists?”
This is not a trick question. As much as we want to dump the blame on some other, it is not simply British Petroleum Oil executives trying to save an extra day and pushing forth on a bad decision to fore go safety measures; it’s not simply Dick Cheney’s secretive Energy Task Force who apparently determined that the $500,000 acoustic shut off switches (mandated in Norway and Brazil to prevent catastrophes like this one) were an economic burden on the industry and passed on requiring them in U.S. waters. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness."
I sit and type away, gazing out at newly greened sage, the La Plata mountains in the background, well aware that this “nightmare” has everything to do with my addiction to oil. I am an enabler. Through my consumptive habits I enable the oil companies to keep racking up profits, playing the greed game. Several years ago I limited my plane flights to one a year and encouraged friends to do the same. “Oh but I can’t,” they replied. “So and so” would be hurt if I didn’t show up for their (fill in the blank: wedding, graduation, funeral, reunion). And of course being baby boomers: “I’ve got to see the grandkids!” topped the list.
But where will change start if not from us who are cognizant of issues? It is time to BE the message. Imagine a phone call to that niece, cousin or sister telling them that you won’t be attending their gradation because of energy consumption; that it’s imperative to switch gears and make choices on behalf of the earth. Take one round trip plane trip a year and make it count. Or if family is a top priority, move and live closer to them.
Close your eyes and visualize what Philippe Cousteau saw 25 feet down: clouds of granular water the likes of which researchers say now forms two massive plumes hundreds of feet deep that stretches for miles. The pungent smell of diesel fuel, gasoline and oil. His hazmat and diving suite needed to be degreased; his skin cleaned because the touch of the water would cause the skin to burn.
Over thirty two thousand barrels of oil continue to pour into the ocean every day. No, says Philippe Cousteau, the ocean can not take this. No, he says, a hurricane will not wash it all away and make it clean again. Unlike the pristine Mancos River Valley, the Gulf has no ritual rite of spring; no seasonal clean-up.
It’s rafting season here in the Four Corners region of the southwest. Rafts made from petroleum products. Petroleum tires under the car and gasoline to drive to the put-ins. Don’t forget the poly-pro wet suits for warmth and those large, soft inflatable pads to sleep on.
It’s springtime in the Rockies. Ask the creatures of the sea, “Who are the terrorists?” While you still can.