Last fall I traveled to West Virginia to witness mountaintop removal coal mining. I had never seen such destruction of the environment by the hands of man. It was shocking to see how years of corporate disregard and greed had obliterated Mother Nature and left people in the surrounding communities struggling with their health, their income, their honor, and with that fundamental human right: clean water.
Last week in Louisiana, I saw the very same things again. But this time, it wasn't Massey Coal who was the sociopath. The culprit was that other fossil fuel behemoth corporation BP. (Hey, since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights and freedoms as a human being, then the distorted sense of entitlement, the complete lack of regard for how one's actions affect other human beings, the twisted belief that someone can make up their own rules... the same things that would label a human being as a sociopath, I think fit perfectly with these corporations.)
Everything that has happened recently couldn't make it clearer. We have got to start weaning ourselves off fossil fuels.
The coal mine disaster in West Virginia killing 29 men; the other mine accident in Kentucky that took two more lives; the supertanker filled with oil and coal that departed Australia and ran aground the Great Barrier Reef; the coal mine disasters in both China and Russia... all of these things have happened within the last few weeks.
And now this.
This unprecedented and astonishing disaster. This unbelievable slap in the face and rude awakening. The arrogance of the oil industry, matched with the shocking incompetence and disgusting corruption within the Mineral Management Services have manifested into what will surely be the most devastating environmental disaster in U.S. history.
And it wasn't that long ago when we experienced (up to that time) the largest environmental disaster in this country: the toxic coal ash spill that happened in Harriman, Tennessee in December 2008, where 1 billion gallons of toxic sludge spilled over 300 acres... the equivalent of a foot of that poisonous soup covering 3,000 acres. Remember that one? Coal ash is the waste product from burning coal. It was dumped in an unlined lagoon, leaking carcinogens into the groundwater (selenium, arsenic, mercury and lead). After a heavy rainfall, the lagoon overflowed. As it stands now there are approximately 1,200 of these lagoons all across this nation.
What will it take? How many more things need to happen before we, as a society, demand that we, as a nation, pass comprehensive climate legislation that will lead us in the direction that is vital for our survival economically, physically and environmentally?
A comprehensive climate bill is circling through the corridors of Capitol Hill. It is ready and waiting. No, it's not perfect, but it's a start. There are some politicians who are staunch climate change "nonbelievers." Funny how oftentimes they are from States where Big Oil and Big Coal pump a ton of money into their State, or into these politicians' campaigns, while these corporations suck oil and scrape coal from the earth. Funny how one record breaking flood, drought or severe storm that passes through these States is met with a blind eye.
The time is now. We can wait no longer. Contact your senators. Insist, urge, demand that they pass this legislation.
We have got to reclaim this country for us, the real human beings.
Gloria Reuben is a nationally known environmental activist and a special
advisor to The Alliance for Climate Protection.