A couple of alarming lessons coming from the Gulf of Mexico

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Pablo Edronkin

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If the ecological disaster occurred to a BP offshore oil platform is worth anything, it is just as a lesson, a reminder and a potent warning: the United States, supposedly the most powerful state on Earth, is in reality extremely vulnerable.

Not so long ago a hydro meteorological event - hurricane Katrina - destroyed vast areas of the southern United States, and many cities and communities in the region could not recover completely, so far; search and rescue operations at the time of the disaster were heavily questioned based on their inefficiency. Now, the calamity that fell upon the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform has been on the news for over three months and while the company has announced that the spill has been finally capped, even U.S. authorities still see the events with substantial skepticism.

The intriguing thing is why does these things happen to nothing less than the U.S.? Why is the nation that reached the Moon so seemingly unable to cope with such disasters? How come that the nation that possesses thousands of nuclear warheads doesn't have the technological ability to put a cork in a hole?

The answer, or the problem, is not technology: the United States has at its disposal enormous material, technical, technological and financial resources that allow the country to go on al most any conceivable project or idea, or at least, ideas and projects that are unreachable by far to most other countries. And it is also necessary to remember that in the past, the industries of the U.S. were capable to confront and find solutions to serious challenges in very short periods of time. For example, when WWII started, the Japanese and Germans had aircraft that were almost in al respects superior to what the U.S. had, yet, those companies proved able to provide superb answers in the blink of an eye. The case of the P-51 Mustang shows this clearly: it took almost the same time for its manufacturers to conceive design, test and put to production this plane as it took BP to allegedly solve the spill problem in the Gulf of Mexico, yet, the P-51 is considered by many as the best fighter aircraft ever produced.

Couldn't the U.S. government do more in the case of hurricane Katrina? Indeed; it has been proved beyond doubt and admitted by authorities. Couldn't they do more in the case of the Deepwater Horizon; well… while no inquiry has yet provided any results, just based on common sense, could you believe otherwise? C'mon guys! You drive robots in Mars and you can't deal with an oil spill? Who is going to believe that?

Evidently, the problem is not the lack of resources, neither it could be related to failures in management and leadership, because a country that goes from war to war at least needs some capability to keep track on its armies plus, many of the projects that we just commented about require usually managerial capabilities that are well-above the norm.

The problem is the lack of motivation: the U.S. government really doesn't care about these things and the U.S. largely sees such issues with indifference, because after all, they are the ones that vote leaders that represent their own ideas. After two catastrophic events in the same area in half a decade, it has been demonstrated that the U.S. government had no serious contingency plans for the region, and after the first event it not even changed its policies in that regard, and all that, knowing what kind of climatic conditions usually develop there and what kind of activities are developing. Both catastrophes, in other words, were perfectly understandable and emergency plans to deal with them could have been developed in advance; the only reason for not having done that is simple, if blunt: people doesn't care.

So, two conclusions come to mind: Firstly, that the U.S. southern flank is extremely vulnerable, whether the threat is a natural or man-made disaster, and whether this one has been caused by negligence or intentionally. After all, if one drilling platform sank on its own, half a dozen could be sunk using explosives placed by some terrorist group acting on the notion that U.S. authorities have proved to be very slow and inefficient to respond to such threats in the region. Disturbing, isn't it? But just wait for our second conclusion: Regrettably, the future of our planet in the medium term doesn't make much room for optimism, because considering the relative magnitude of the U.S. in the world and with leaders such as this and people that vote such leaders it becomes apparent that what we have not seen yet will not be much better than what we have already witnessed.

And lastly, we should also try to look beyond local politics in roder to understand that this age, the anthropocene, is the first time in Earth's history that even the climate and geology dynamics of the planet are being affected by one species, and that is us. The world has in store yet more hydro meteorological distasters for us simply because with our actions and if we do not change, we are producing them. In the end, it is an open question whether our civilization will survive a couple of centuries from now the plan stupid and reckless things that we are doing right now. It seems that we don't really need mass destruction weapons to kill and damage since our own society has turned into a gigantic, world-size WMD.

There are planetary boundaries that are safe-operation limits for Earth, our home. We should not try to trespass them and unless we change, we will see yet more things like hurricane Katrina.

Simply nature; dawn in early fall, Patagonia.

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