05/10/2010 09:23 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Not Quite "Beyond Petroleum"

NEW ORLEANS -- Ray Nagin is Na-gone, the city is enjoying a second springtime when it should ordinarily be early summer, hot and muggy, and yet, walking around today, there's a strange chemical smell in the air, something like heavy-duty charcoal lighter fluid. "Everybody at the dog park," said a friend, walking his low-slung Labrador-cum-basset, "thinks it's dispersant". The oil spill has come to the heart of New Orleans.

We've been down this road so very recently, an environmental depredation delivered by an arm of a large outside organization -- in 2005, the flooding thanks to the Corps of Engineers, this year, the oil spill from the green people at BP. Dr. Bob Bea, the indispensable engineering sage of UC Berkeley, outed some interviews with workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig, indicating that the explosion's epicenter was a room where BP execs were celebrating the safety record of the rig.
From Iraq to Katrina to this thing, the recent history of arrogant ignorance -- who knew ice crystals form a mile down? -- seems to form our 21st-century legacy.

So, what happens now? It could, ironically, be good news. Environmentalists and local officials and coastal experts have been vocally pissing into the wind for years about the need to rebuild the barrier islands that are this area's first -- most seaward -- line of defense against hurricanes. Now, in the wake of the spill, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has called for a fast-track approach to that very plan. Is faster better? It's better than never.

And, on the viral tip, there's a movement afoot to collect human hair, stuff it into stockings and pantyhose, and stuff the resulting sausage into the leaking pipes. Hair absorbs oil. Don't ask me. But the link is here. This is what happens when experts end up looking dumb.