Tuesday, August 30, 2011
no man is an island
“Let’s blow this fascist popsicle stand! Purchase a small island somewhere, and start our own country.”
– Montgomery Burns
Getting away from it all by starting a country is an interesting idea but it appears there are no spare uninhabited islands that don't already belong to some larger country that frowns on claim jumpers. Remember the entire British Navy setting sail for the Falklands? Since it's difficult, bordering on impossible, to find places that don't fall under some national jurisdiction there are those who have become enthusiastic about turning abandoned oil rigs into their own separate countries.
These ideas always seem to be presented by people who have better skills making architectural photo-shop models than they do in the real world where things tend to get messy. In fact, things already are pretty messy. Did you know there are 27,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico, many of which are already abandoned? Since I thought I'd limit this post to old oil drilling platforms as potential living spaces there's not much reason to mention that according to The American Petroleum Institute there are approximately 2.5 million abandoned oil wells in the continental US. I had to mention it because we can't solve problems we don't know about. It seems that ever since the first well was drilled in the US in 1859 the practice has been to walk away shortly thereafter. It's far from being a strictly American problem as experts in the subject have estimated there are likely to be 20-30 million of them globally. Many were wildcatted long before there were any capping techniques or regulations and far too many have never been identified. Capping has usually involved nothing more than pouring some cement down the hole and, as we know from looking at highways and bridges that haven't been continually repaired, things can go badly wrong.
Anyway, back to our abandoned oil platform home sweet home. Although I believe the concept to be fairly chimeric - how many of you would enjoy sitting on a palm tree planted oil platform during hurricane season in the Gulf? - there might be some advantages insofar as people having a reason to monitor further oil and gas leaks. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster came as a profound shock and wake-up call last year when many of us first learned about the dangerous practice of deep water drilling. The oil industry, inarguably the wealthiest enterprise in the history of humanity, has opted to spend a small portion of its profits by influencing governments to deregulate or not enforce laws on the books. Oil and gas leaks continue to cause massive damage to the environment as a whole and to the ocean in particular.
There are so many problems in the world right now and this is a very small blog but I have to point out the old saying that ignorance of the law is no excuse under the law. It's quite obvious that the same rule should apply equally to environmental crimes. The fact is that there are no islands left where we can start again. As Bill McKibben said:
"We've built a new Earth.
It's not as nice as the old one;
It's the greatest mistake humans have ever made,
One that we will pay for literally forever.
We live on a new planet.
What happens next is up to us."
Sayonara from Eric Bates on Vimeo.
The oil companies have money enough to pay for superfund clean-ups of the areas already defiled. Perhaps the day will come when the uber rich will realize there are no islands for them to run to either.