Saturday, July 3, 2010

Apocalypse and oil

Franklin Johnston

Earth is the Lord's but a deep well opens Pandora's box!

April 20, 2010 is a date mankind may not forget. The day earth fought back! We had abused her; ravished forests, polluted waters, darkened her skies and on this day we pierced her mantle and oil gushed! She cried, "This is my blood, all the oil you desire!" BP replied, "No problem", but as it gushed even more, no man could staunch the flow and panic set it!

The earth confounded men of Congress, of business and science. But the men of oil had a solution - garbage! Let's plug the well with garbage! Garbage? "Yes, when in doubt try garbage!" This was Big Oil's best solution! And garbage it proved! The US was angry, the UK was miffed and said Obama should not blame them as BP was not British; shareholders bawled at lost dividends and we watched aghast as the world's wise men scurried about like headless cocks. We trusted them to dig a proper well; they did not! But, as this will not be the last deep well, can we trust them with the next one? God only knows!

The Macondo well is not the beginning of the end, but it may be the beginning of wisdom. Deepwater Horizon, a semi-submersible drill rig leased by BP Plc (a UK-registered company with offices in London) until 2013, at some US$500k a day, bored a hole six miles into the earth's crust - almost to the mantle, to find oil to feed our lust and their greed. The wreck now lies a mile down on the ocean floor. The insurance claim was settled, owners are happy, but three million gallons of crude oil still gush into the ocean each day and they can't stop it. Mother Earth is taking revenge! What will deeper wells bring?

For millennia man lived in harmony with earth and respected it as the sustainer of life. Jewish stories in the Bible say, "Be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth..." The result? There are now seven billion mouths to feed! We multiply but we do not replenish, replant or restore; we harvest, but do not rest or restock the species and now we drill this bleeding wound in the Gulf of Mexico! When did we lose respect for Mother Earth?

In the last three centuries man has been an arrogant know-it-all! We know a bit about earth, gravity, our body; split the atom, went to the moon and mapped the human genome. We now have a cocky certainty about things where the ancients were cautious and respectful; we will soon programme our Sat Nav to locate God! Will Armageddon come from the sea? Not by demons, evil men, nuclear bombs, global warming, Bin Laden or poverty, but by simple businessmen. BP opened Pandora's box and a haemorrhage of oil can end life as we know it! Scary! It is so like God to confound prophets and priests. What if hell is our own earth saturated with oil and ignited by the spontaneous combustion of the sun? "No more water - the fire next time?" And why not? Who knows God's mind? God is God, consults no one, gives or destroys life at will! Those "not chosen" are also His and He used them to destroy His son, Jerusalem His city, and enslave His "chosen people". God makes rules and is not bound by them! You pray and expect God's help. Guess what? God answered your prayer, but not as you wished it; you are not in the picture or even part of the solution - tough! Do we limit God's end time to a Jewish story about beasts with four heads? Can the issue of oil be His Armageddon? Only God knows God's mind; this is why God is God! As humans, we must care for the earth and get on with living!

Some time ago, a small Australian undersea well gushed for two months and polluted waters as far as East Timor, so when the massive Macondo well blew I encouraged Jamaica to get involved. Why? We are all joined at the hip! Consider this scenario:

*The oceans are one body of water, given various names by Europe's explorers; if you urinate at Whitehouse beach it eventually reaches Europe, Africa and Asia thanks to the Gulf Stream, Benguela, Agulhas and Humboldt currents.

*Mankind is one, and Europe's proto scientists labelled people by phenotype (mainly colour) as so-called races, after characters (Ham, Shem) in Bible stories. Conclusion? One people breathe one air, live on one earth, beside one sea. If Apocalypse by oil continues, progressive pollution of the Caribbean, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans means marine life will die. Pollution from the coast inland means as crops and potable water fail we all die! Extreme and not pretty, but species have died out before! So what are the less atavistic implications of Macondo and other deep wells to come?

* If oil gushes to year end the damage may be US$1t and life as we know it will not return to some areas. Who heard the last dinosaur scream? The full is hard to bear!

*The impact on land and marine ecosystems may mean loss of use, plant, animal, sealife, birds and micro-organisms we know so little about - all priceless!

* First, the economy, quality of life, tourism, etc, of Gulf states will be hard hit. In stage 2, Central, South America and the Caribbean will suffer, and stage 3 will kick in when the ocean currents circulate the crude oil globally - possible global disaster! The earth lived with Krakatoa, tsunami, earthquake, storm, Eyjafjoll, all natural disasters and it recovered. Bhopal was man-made, and thousands were killed and maimed with little global impact. BP's incision in the earth's mantle is different. It may affect all on earth!

But we are not yet at worst case; so what can we learn from Macondo?

*We do not know as much as we think we do; so we should respect earth and be cautious.

*God - however you conceive Him - may intervene in the world, but we can't predict the outcome for man as our agenda is not His and we may not be part of His solution.

*The environment must be our priority. We must apply pressure on ourselves, business and government to do right by our earth. We came, it was here and it's all we have!

*Truly "no man is an island". If the US and China pollute the air it is our air; if men dynamite fish and cut down our forests to burn coal, if Caricom accepts "payola" and votes to destroy whales, they threaten our earth! Let's oppose them all! The Gulf gusher may not be the Apocalypse, but "take sleep and mark death", my friend.

Dr Franklin Johnston is an international project manager with Teape-Johnston Consultants, currently on assignment in the UK.

July 02, 2010