The catastrophic oil spill is something that all can see. It's visibility offers an opportunity for change, as described in The NY Times opinion article entitled "Drilling, Disaster, Denial". Some excerpts appear below:
Environmentalism began as a response to pollution that everyone could see. The spill in the gulf recalls the 1969 blowout that coated the beaches of Santa Barbara in oil. But 1969 was also the year the Cuyahoga River, which flows through Cleveland, caught fire. Meanwhile, Lake Erie was widely declared “dead,” its waters contaminated by algal blooms. And major U.S. cities — especially, but by no means only, Los Angeles — were often cloaked in thick, acrid smog.The full text of the article is here.
It wasn’t that hard, under the circumstances, to mobilize political support for action. The Environmental Protection Agency was founded, the Clean Water Act was enacted, and America began making headway against its most visible environmental problems.
Greenhouse gases pose a greater threat than smog or burning rivers ever did. But it’s hard to get the public focused on a form of pollution that’s invisible, and whose effects unfold over decades rather than days.
Then came the gulf disaster. Suddenly, environmental destruction was photogenic again.
In particular, President Obama needs to seize the moment; he needs to take on the “Drill, baby, drill” crowd, telling America that courting irreversible environmental disaster for the sake of a few barrels of oil, an amount that will hardly affect our dependence on imports, is a terrible bargain.
The catastrophe in the gulf offers an opportunity, a chance to recapture some of the spirit of the original Earth Day. And if that happens, some good may yet come of this ecological nightmare.