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why the bp gulf ecological debacle was inevitable

June 20, 2010

1. The Gulf region encompasses several of the poorest states in our nation, and thus ones that are economically at risk from outside commerce that cares little for its citizens (identified by the chair of BP as the "small people").     

2. The Gulf region is at some geographical distance from centers of political (Washington, D.C.) and financial (New York City) power, and thus its health and well-being can be ignored. One insidious outcome of the disaster is that professionals in each of these two cities will profit financially from the oil spill, in the areas of public relations and corporate realignment, respectively.     

3. The Gulf region is populated by a strong Christian culture, but one that has not connected personal faith with care for the creation. This is changing, incrementally, among evangelicals and mainline Christians, but the shift is slow in coming.     

4. The Gulf region is governed by politicians, across a number of states, who are tainted by corruption and incompetence, a story that is as at least as old as Huey Long and as recent as Joe Barton, who apologized last week to the CEO of BP in a congressional hearing. For background, read Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men, or Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge.     

5. The Gulf region cannot tell its story as effectively as a corporation with unlimited financial resources. The media that reports the news is funded by a constant stream of commercials, conveying BP's humanitarian and neighborly investment in the region it has degraded.     

6. The Gulf region was an easy target for corporations linked to the highest positions of power on our planet: it is astonishing that one of the three businesses materially implicated in the oil spill was led by a sitting vice-president of the United States, once removed.     

7. The Gulf region is a borderland that has given us Walker Percy and B.B. King, Eudora Welty and Allen Toussaint, Hank Williams and Muddy Waters. Its very history has been the confluence of pain and hope, bitterness and celebration, and now oil and water, and death and life. As with Katrina and so now in the ecological crisis, its residents will naturally ask: "Are we a part of the United States?" And "who will be our advocate?"

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