What’s Wrong With Our World?
The news, even here in Zimbabwe, is filled with the Gulf oil spill. Fingers are pointing in every direction of the compass. Some are calling for a complete moratorium on off shore drilling, with the view that this will prevent future environmental catastrophes.
I fill my odd hours writing fiction mainly; and there is probably a feeling that writers of fiction, particularly short fiction, don’t think about such weighty issues. After all, aren’t we fully occupied playing with words and phrases in our efforts to entertain readers? Well, people, I want you to know that we do think – nay, worry, about such issues.
With all the blaming and shaming that has been going on since the rig explosion, there is one culprit that I have yet to see listed in the docks as a cause of this and other problems on this planet – greed. We can put people in jail, make them pay heavy fines; even put a stop to their individual activities; but, until we face the fact that it is mainly greed and selfishness that has been the cause of a lot of our problems, we will continue to put Band-Aids over the suppurating wounds we are inflicting upon this planet and ourselves.
How, you might ask, is greed the cause of one of the worst manmade environmental disasters of the century? I was recently talking to a neighbor of mine who happens to be a retired engineer. He pointed out that the method oil companies use to stem flow in pipelines is what he called ‘pinched pipes’ or ‘pinch valves.’ This is as you might imagine, like pinching a water hose to stop the flow of water. It is much cheaper than capping the pipes, so in order to save money, it is apparently common practice. The problem, my friend said, is that when you do this it causes weakness in the pipe, and will, according to him, lead to leaks. I’m not an engineer, but his explanation makes sense to me. Consider what happens in your body when a vein is pinched. The result is often heart attack or stroke.
Why, then, is this such a common practice? To save money; there seems to be no other rational explanation. Worse, the government regulators approve such a practice. Now, with all the money the oil companies make, one would think they could take a little less profit to prevent such disasters.
Until we – and I’m talking about all of us now – stop being greedy and think about the future we want to leave our children and grandchildren, we aren’t going to prevent anything.
Think about it. The mortgage meltdown was the result of lenders trying to find ways to make more money. The Enron scandal – cutting corners to increase profits for a few big share holders. The savings and loan crisis of several years ago – again, the quest for more and more profit at the expense of common sense and the common man. The Teapot Dome Scandal – again, greed.
The list is endless, and yet, we continue to be greedy. We want cheap oil – so oil companies cut corners to keep prices down and profits up. We want cheap products, so companies move production to countries where labor is cheap, cutting jobs at home and exploiting workers abroad.
If it sounds like I’m pointing the finger of blame at all of us – or most of us – you’re absolutely right. We’re all to blame. Until we except that it is the responsibility of every person on the planet to help conserve and preserve our habitat, the next disaster is just waiting to happen.