Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Musings: Industrial Disease

The black clouds that had hovered over the mountains all afternoon swooped in last night and brought the kind of steady, noise-blotting rain that makes it easy to sleep, which is why the sun was well-risen when the dogs and I went walking this morning. Rounding a corner, I saw two thick streaks of white on the face of Makaleha, nearer to whom I’ll moving next month, and as I drew closer to Waialeale, six slim waterfalls could be seen streaming down the front of the mountain.

And I thought of how multiple falls aren’t seen on Waialeale’s face as often as they used to be, and they do not linger long. Yet even in her diminished state we’re still making our plans to exploit her further, for more drinking water, hydroelectric power. When was the last time we acknowledged what she already gives, much less say thanks?

The executives and shareholders at BP are giving thanks that their profits are once again strong and stock dividends are being paid. Yes, it’s only been a year since BP created one of the world’s worst environmental catastrophes, but it’s already back to business as usual. As Live Trading News reported:

The 1st deep-water permit issued after the Obama administration lifted a post-spill drilling ban went to Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE:NBL) for work on a well off the coast of Louisiana.

BP is not the operator but it has a 46% stake in the well. BP also bought out Shell’s 25% interest in 2 Gulf fields in December, making BP the sole owner of both.

BP’s spokesman Scott Dean said the leading leaseholder in the Gulf, will remain active in all facets of the Gulf of Mexico Crude Oil exploration. The Company has applied for a permit to drill 1 new well in the Gulf and is certain to apply for more.

Meanwhile, many of the folks who live in the ravaged areas and helped clean up the giant mess are finding their fortunes and future are not quite so bright as BP's. Yes, just as everyone with a brain expected, they’re experiencing all sorts of medical problems associated with their exposure to the nasty substances found in chemical dispersants and crude oil, most notably benzene.

“Mystery illnesses plague plague Louisiana oil spill crews” reads an Associated Press headline, but really, it’s no mystery at all. It’s what happens when living creatures are exposed to toxins:

Some similar symptoms, including eye irritation, breathing problems, nausea and psychological stress, have been seen among responders to the Prestige oil tanker spill off Spain in 2002 and the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 off Alaska.

Local chemist Wilma Subra has been helping test people's blood for volatile solvents, and said levels of benzene among cleanup workers, divers, fishermen and crabbers are as high as 36 times that of the general population.

"As the event progresses we are seeing more and more people who are desperately ill," she said.

"Clearly it is showing that this is ongoing exposure," Subra said, noting that pathways include contact with the skin, eating contaminated seafood or breathing polluted air.

"We have been asking the federal agencies to please provide medical care from physicians who are trained in toxic exposure."

She said she has received no response.

BP officials, meanwhile, have learned well from the government, which continues to avoid responsibility for the medical ailments of toxin-exposed military veterans and 9-11 responders:

"Illness and injury reports were tracked and documented during the response, and the medical data indicate they did not differ appreciably from what would be expected among a workforce of this size under normal circumstances," [BP] added.

Any compensation for sick workers would fall under state law, and "BP does not make these determinations, which must be supported by acceptable medical evidence."

[Mike] Robichaux, an ear, nose and throat specialist whose office an hour's drive southwest of New Orleans is nestled on a roadside marked with handwritten signs advertising turtle meat for sale, says he is treating many of the local patients in their homes.

"Their work ethic is so strong, they are so stoic, they don't want people to know when they're sick," he said.

"Ninety percent of them are getting worse... Nobody has a clue as to what it is."

Actually, Dire Straits pegged it correctly as industrial disease:

There's a protest singer, he's singing a protest song, he says

They wanna have a war to keep their factories
They wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
They wanna have a war to stop us buying Japanese
They wanna have a war to stop industrial disease

They're pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind
They wanna sap your energy, incarcerate your mind

Which leads me to this website, which shows where all those taxes we just paid go. Note how number one is “national defense.” But what, really, do Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have to do with “national defense?”

And wouldn’t protecting the health of our citizenry and natural resources more logically be considered “national defense" — without the associated industrial disease?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Government wastes our tax dollars not the people who pay the taxes. The Government is trying to pit the "rich" against the "poor" so no one will blame the Government. Rich and poor need to get together enough to put the blame where it belongs...GOVERNMENT WASTE !!!! If the "sacred" defense portion was reduced most social programs could continue....JMHO Dirk