Ecological Disaster

— Daniel Kirkpatrick

This piece is a bit of a departure from this blog’s normal fare, but I cannot keep silent.  Today marks one month since the oil well blew out beneath the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s hard not to agree with those who identify this as the worst environmental disaster in history — though it will likely be years before we know the full impact.

What we do know is that, right now, a mile or so beneath the surface, oil is spewing forth as it has since April 20, despite some limited success at controlling the gush.  We know that thousands of square miles of sea are covered with a sheen of oil.  We know that ocean currents are distributing this oil in ways beyond any previous oil spill event.  We know that there are gigantic plumes, or columns, of oil in the water affecting innumerable species of sea life.  We know that the oil has started reaching shore, with massive impacts upon coastal ecosystems.

I am almost physically sick when I think of the untold damage and suffering.

As the oil continues surging forth, we of course need to support and encourage the strongest possible response to the crisis.  But we absolutely must also work, with new seriousness and urgency, to implement a safe and sustainable energy policy.

The focus of this blog is education, and it doesn’t aim to be a news portal or offer political commentary.  However, a responsible education must address current events and their impacts; only by examining real issues and facts can young people become responsible national or global citizens.  Thus, we have to learn what this crisis has to teach us.

David Orr, Oberlin College’s noted professor of resource economics, has said, “All education is environmental education.”  By this I think he means that we have to look not just at academic subjects but also the context in which those subjects reside.  Put another way, we have got to make sure kids come to understand the effects of their actions.  Otherwise we will condemn them to repeating the profound mistakes that have led us to disasters like this one.

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