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Sunday, June 6, 2010

BP Oil, Theology, Avatar, and Connecting Everything

I just heard on NPR that BP reports capturing 10,000 barrels of oil a day from the containment cap placed on its big Gulf of Mexico leak. BP chief Tony Hayward says that's about half the total daily leakage. Remember when BP (and the government) said the leak was 5000 barrels a day?

The BP spill is rightly capturing a lot of attention among the folks I read. Larry Kurtz pointed out the If It Was My Home graphic that maps the size of the Deepwater Horizon spill on top of any location you choose. Pastors Hickey and Fountain take note and recommend the faithful pray for the folks in Louisiana... and for some divine inspiration for the engineers who have to solve this problem.

The stern Displaced Plainsman (who matches Hickey's hirsuteness, if not theology) seconds some broader theological observations on the BP mess from Biloxi native Russell D. Moore. Moore likens this ecological disaster to Roe v. Wade as a paradigm-busting call to action for all Christians:

For too long, we evangelical Christians have maintained an uneasy ecological conscience. I include myself in this indictment.

We’ve had an inadequate view of human sin.

Because we believe in free markets, we’ve acted as though this means we should trust corporations to protect the natural resources and habitats. But a laissez-faire view of government regulation of corporations is akin to the youth minister who lets the teenage girl and boy sleep in the same sleeping bag at church camp because he “believes in young people” [Russell D. Moore, "Ecological Catastrophe and the Uneasy Evangelical Conscience," Moore to the Point, 2010.06.01].

Moore says this oil spill is a threat not just to his hometown or other coastal residents but to our overall national security, due to a dependence on the Gulf ecosystems that exceeds most folks' understanding. In case you still think this catastrophe only affects shrimpers and swimmers, consider this small example: BP's oil may significantly harm Minnesota's venerable state bird, the common loon. Loons hatch up north, then fly south to spend their first year in the Gulf of Mexico. Young loons and oil don't mix well.

Moore's politics on abortion make me queasy... and I'm sure he'd feel the same about mine. But he sees no reason we can't all get along and try saving the planet from industrial destruction. In fact, Moore believes Christianity calls us all to fight pollution, to protect not just cute critters but also communities and culture:

As I’ve seen the people I love, who led me to Christ, literally heaving in tears, I’ve wondered how many other communities have faced death like this, while I ignored even the chance to pray. The protection of the creation isn’t just about seagulls and turtles and dolphins. That would be enough to prompt us to action, since God’s glory is in seagulls and turtles and dolphins (Gen. 6-9; Isa. 65).

Pollution kills people. Pollution dislocates families. Pollution defiles the icon of God’s Trinitarian joy, the creation of his theater (Ps. 19; Rom. 1) [Moore, 2010].

Alas, my deficiency of divinity leaves me turning to secular culture for understanding. Friday night my wife and I got our first look at Avatar, a movie about a community uprooted by careless industrial development. (I think the movie also said some Gaia-stuff about the interconnection of all creation... though I wonder if that includes a connection between human and Na'vi.)

Two lines stick in my head. First, the hero tells Eywa there's no green left back on Earth. Then, at the end, the hero says of us, "the aliens went back to their dying home."

The Soviets destroyed the Aral Sea. We're one-upping them in the Gulf of Mexico... and making me think we really could make a dying world with no green.

Says BP's Hayward:

We are going to stop the leak. We're going to clean up the oil, we're going to remediate any environmental damage and we are going to return the Gulf coast to the position it was in prior to this event. That's an absolute commitment, we will be there long after the media has gone, making good on our promises [BP chief exec Tony Hayward, quoted by David Stringer, "BP chief won't quit over Gulf of Mexico spill," AP via Google, 2010.06.06].

Prayers are in order, for Hayward and his engineers to succeed in fulfilling their obligations, and for the communities threatened by this ecological disaster to persevere. Also in order: personal and political action to reform our environmental laws and energy policy, kick our fossil fuel habit, and stop wrecking our planet.

BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, superimposed over the Aral Sea.
Image retrieved 2010.06.06 by ifitwasmyhome.com.


  1. I was blown away by the number of BP outlets East River especially after recalling this 2007 article:


    Is there any serious local talk of boycotts or traffic counts at the Get and Go?


    Anyone know the principal franchisee?

  2. Here's some dot-connecting:


  3. That Snopes link looks like 2008.

    What if fuel taxes were more in line with European and Canadian rates?

    Which of the candidates for Congress support much higher tax rates on fuel?

  4. Doug has been running a good piece:


    Just the plastics diverted from municipal waste streams to make synfuels would ease petroleum pressures; it is a similar process used to extract the tall oil fatty acids produced by pine trees.

    Take some of that stranded wind to power the recycling of plastics especially before they go to landfills.

    Scrubber technologies come from Japan and Europe developed in the wake of the Bhopal disaster (recently in the news).

    The US just finds it more expeditious to dispose of copious potential fuel in landfills.


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