The Gulf oil disaster: plugging the leaks in American consciousness

06/01/2010 12:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Gulf Oil Disaster: plugging the leaks in our consciousness

Jerry Kroth

Currently we are budgeting half a billion dollars for GE to develop an engine for the new F-35 fighter plane, but down here on the ground, 38 millions gallons of crude are spilling into the Gulf of Mexico sullying marshlands, fishing grounds, and beaches from Louisiana to--ultimately-- Cuba, Florida, and the East Coast. How nice if we disengaged and disembarked from our journey towards empire and paid more attention to business here at home.

Supertankers could park themselves off an oil spill and suck up the oil that is there so says former Shell chairman, John Hofmeister: ". . . There was an Arabian Gulf spill some 20 years ago, much larger than this one, where this technique was used and they cleaned up hundreds of millions of gallons of oil off the surface of the Arabian Gulf, we ought to use it in the Gulf of Mexico. " A small investment indeed. Where are those supertankers? Where are the innovative approaches to these disasters that are standing in the wings waiting to deploy? Where are our contingency plans?

Instead we are fighting two endless and meaningless wars 6,000 miles from our shores, and investing billions in even better equipment to continue our adventures while our government is impotent and helpless to stop what looks to be the worst ecological disaster in American history.

A few million dollars--not billions--invested in supertankers capable of removing oil slicks from rogue wells could have saved hundreds of thousands of people along the Gulf coast from the trauma that is now unfolding.

Sometimes I wonder if the earth is not trying to tell us something. We have troops and military personnel in over 130 countries. We are paying the salaries of Iraqi policemen to direct traffic in Baghdad. We foot the bill for bodyguards who protect President Karzai in Afghanistan. We are sending Israel $3 billion in foreign aid this year, but can't seem to have set aside any money if a deep-water oil rig screws up and destroys the livelihoods of the fishermen of Louisiana, hoteliers along the Florida Panhandle, or the tourist trade in the Florida Keys.

The hemorrhage in the Gulf is a message that the United States of America needs to re-set it's priorities, to develop a new consciousness and come back home to deal with its pressing, national issues instead of the international chess-game we have grown accustomed to playing.

The trillion dollars we spent on George Bush's Iraq weapons-of-mass-destruction folly could have put over a million Americans through college. . . all four years too! The money we are giving Israel this year alone, if spent in our own hemisphere, could double the per-capita income of Haiti in a year where they lost more of their citizens than those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. And the money we are spending with GE to develop an engine for a new fighter plane, could have been set aside to develop skimmer ships and tankers--and maybe other innovations-- that could respond to this disastrous and catastrophic oil spill fast, effectively, and with far less environmental damage.

It is time for new priorities and to plug the leaks in American consciousness.

Jerry Kroth, Ph.D.