So I’m getting settled into my new job at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (and finally learning not to panic and think I’ve lost the OWCN pager when I realize it’s no longer glued to my hip), and what happens??? – a spill of national significance! Something I’ve drilled for twice in my career and always hoped I’d never see.
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re well aware of what’s happening in the Gulf. And if you’re like me, you want to know what is REALLY going on. I used to be one of those people who knew what was really going on because I was living it. Now I’m sitting at home giving Mike a break from blogging. Hopefully he’s using the time to sleep. Lord knows I remember what it’s like to be so sleep deprived during a spill that you walk into a room and for a moment don’t know where you are. It’s like your brain hiccups and then suddenly everything comes rushing back. I say I remember what it’s like, but I have been wondering lately if that’s really the case. See, I received a call late last week inquiring about my availability to work this spill. A normal person might say, “Sorry I’ve got another job.” Guess I’m not normal (everyone who knows me is saying “Duh!” right now). Luckily my new boss Dr. Keven Flammer, is allowing me to take a leave of absence to help out. Thanks Keven! I’ll be heading south later this week once we finish teaching veterinary students.
So what is really going on? I can’t say I know for sure, but I can tell you this. I know there are a lot of people working long hours and trying hard to wrap their brains and arms around the magnitude of this disaster. No one wanted this to happen, and plans and spill drill exercises can only simulate so much (just think how much worse off we’d be without them). Right now those folks behind the scenes are trying to come up with the best way possible to prevent this spill from getting any worse. That goes for President Obama, the Coast Guard, the response contractors, and yes, especially BP.
It’s easy to get frustrated and angry. In fact I got pretty frustrated just this afternoon as I listened to yet another news story about the spill. It’s frustrating when you want things to run smoothly and be organized and make sense. The unpleasant realty is that emergency responses almost never work that way – especially when you’re talking about one of this magnitude.
Now I’m not saying we can’t do things better, I’m just trying to say that pointing fingers right now is not the most productive use of our collective energy. Right now let’s deal with the problem. Afterwards, I say go for it – blame away. In fact some of that type of energy can be really productive. Look at what came from the Exxon Valdez spill. We got the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. That piece of legislation has had a major impact on environmental health by significantly reducing pollution events in U.S. waters. Let’s hope this spill leads to something just as beneficial – like maybe a greater awareness of how our nation uses energy and what consequences come from our consumptive culture. Perhaps this will be a wake up call for all of us.
One last thought. Earlier I wrote about turning your anger into something productive. In no way do I mean to downplay anyone’s feelings if they’re upset. People have a right to get angry, and everyone who knows me knows I exercise that right regularly. No, a lot of people’s lives have been changed forever, and they are entitled to those kinds of feelings. But we’ve got a long way to go before this is over, and it would be better if we could take those feelings and channel them into action. I’ll leave it to each of you to figure out what form that action might take.
Finally, I want to apologize for the long-winded post. Like I said, I’m taking Mike’s place tonight, and he set the bar pretty high. Also, I want to offer my sincere best wishes to all those responding to this spill and all those who have suffered because of it.
-Greg Massey (formerly the OWCN Assistant Director)