The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, which blew out in a fireball on April 20, 2010 and burned for two days, sank into a mile of water in the Gulf of Mexico on the 40th anniversary of Gaylord Nelson’s Earth Day speech. One catastrophe doesn’t mean that we’d learned nothing in the 40 years since Earth Day, 1970. I’d say that we learned a lot for about 10 years. And we’ve spent the better part of 30 years being forced to forget it.
Forced because only a very determined disinformation campaign could keep an entire generation so focused on buying more and more, and caring less and less, while eliminating U.S. manufacturing capacity for the very merchandise everyone is made to feel they simply must acquire. The Deepwater Horizon sank because a series of corporate and worker decisions put dollars above sense.
Nelson said that poverty, civil rights, peace and human dignity are inseparable from the environmental cause. Almost no one talks that way now. When the Deepwater Horizon rig sank, no one really knew what to do. And so, as I chronicled in “A Sea in Flames,” oil flowed for nearly three agonizing months, bringing fishing, commerce, and real estate values to chaos and near-collapse throughout much of the U.S. Gulf Coast and proving that prosperity, civil rights, peace, and human dignity are inseparable from the environmental cause.