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Vivian Norris Headshot

What Have We Wrought?

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I called my mother last week, wrote to her as well, suggesting that she sell her house in Houston and move inland towards Austin and the Hill Country of Texas. The BP oil spill and the pollution it brings worries me for the health of my family and all of those living beings along the Gulf Coast. I have a horrible feeling that this is truly the end of a way of life, that a dead zone in the Gulf, the acid rain killing crops inland, and the pollutants in the air, water and food supply means it's over and time to go.

Ironically, Houston has one of the most important cancer treatment centers in the world, M.D. Andersen, but it's growing importance is also part of a vicious circle and those who will profit from all of the illnesses caused by pollutants are often those who donate to build medical hospitals, cancer research centers, etc. The Sins of the Fathers passed down for generations as those who have made money for decades off of oil will feel the effects of this the most in places like Houston.

When we arrived in Moscow last summer one of the first things I noticed driving into town from the airport was a big 4-wheel drive truck and on its back window written in English in big letters were the words, "F*#k Fuel Efficiency!" I felt that I could have been back home in Texas, and that these words could have easily appeared on bumper stickers in Houston alongside ones for Sarah Palin and George Bush Jr. The only difference between Moscow and Houston is that the Orthodox churches in the former are replaced by fundamentalist sports-like stadiums of worship in the latter. All the rest is shopping malls, fast food, gambling, advertising, traffic, guns, hookers and hell. In other words, no zoning...no place for human focused sustainability. And this is a place I called home and loved, where people I care about live...

We must have always known intuitively this could not continue. Twenty years ago, when I visited Mexico City and Guatemala City, I knew it would be for the last time...why? Because I could not breathe for the pollution, coughed up black goo, had temporary asthma and ended up ill for weeks after my return. This is where we are headed. Why do you think all of the billionaires own huge ranches in Wyoming and Montana or half of Paraguay? Because Misters Soros, Turner etc. heard what their buddy Mike Ovitz (formerly of Disney) said, "How do you explain the future to people, when the future is Montana?" Or as my daughter, whose 7 year old body had suffered from pollutants and pesticides while living in LA said to me the first day we arrived in Oslo, Norway..."Mommy, I can breathe!" Now extrapolate from that to all of the millions of impoverished children around the world who live in polluted cities, along oil-contaminated deltas...the change begins with us. Too bad it took reaching our own shores for us to perhaps begin to wake up.

But I am an optimist so how can I find some kind of saving grace in all this? That perhaps the Gulf Coast, facing extinction, will have to quickly put in place green non-polluting laws and practices? Are they kidding? These oil rich frogs will boil in the pot first! It has become like Africa, which we use for its resources in our wealthy countries, not caring that the Niger Delta is a dead zone and that thousands of people die from oil related deaths. And those wealthy (European) oops American Yale boys who were sent down to Texas to make their fortunes back in the 50s and 60s from the oil, keep their homes in pristine Maine and elsewhere, while having helped trash what was once a kind of Promised Land. Just as the second and third sons of the wealthy European families were sent to derive wealth from the colonies...

I will end this with a few sentences from the last paragraph of Upton Sinclair's "Oil" which describes what I hope may be the future of my dear Texas...and our oil-addicted world:

"Some day all those unlovely derricks will be gone, and so will the picket fence and the graves. There will be other girls with bare brown legs running over those hills, and they may grow up to be happier women, if men can find some way to chain the black and cruel demon...an Evil Power which roams the earth, crippling the bodies of men and women, and luring the nations to destruction by visions of unearned wealth, and the opportunity to enslave and exploit labor".

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