Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Exxon ValdezOn this day in 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled about a half million barrels of oil into Prince William Sound in Alaska. I remember at the time that I bought a shirt that said, “We don’t care. We don’t have to care. At Exxon, we’re part of the problem.” This was based, I think, on Lily Tomlin’s telephone operator character, Ernestine. It amused me for a while.

But even at the time, I understood that the problem was not Exxon or even the oil companies. The problem was and is the system itself. If you have a population that is dependent upon something as toxic as fossil fuels, you are going to have accidents. There will be consequences.

I don’t talk about it much because it seems elitist of me with my relatively stable life. But I wonder about capitalism and our push for ever more growth. I do see that if regular working people are going to see improvements in their lives, we need economic growth. But that’s only because we’ve decided that capitalism is the only system we can possibly have. And that seems less and less tenable.

I find that I get hung up on how you would replace capitalism. But the truth is, that’s silly. In our society, capitalism is like water to a fish: it is such a given that it doesn’t really even exist. I would say that for the vast majority of people in the “advanced” economies, belief in capitalism is far more real than belief in God. At least with God, people know there are other people who don’t believe in their particular choice.

So we are stuck in a situation where we are just trying to make the given state of awesome capitalism more humane. Think about Bernie Sanders for a moment. He calls himself a socialist, but that’s really a joke. He’s just an old style liberal. We’ve lost so much ground over the last five decades — especially here in the United States.

Obviously, we will eventually get over our addiction to oil and things like the Exxon Valdez oil spill will be a thing of the past. But capitalism will create new ways to destroy us. Rest assured.

13 thoughts on “Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

  1. My memories of the Exxon Valdez spill are fuzzy. I just remember that my family decided to boycott Exxon for a few years after it as our way of protesting it.

    It will amuse you Frank that I defended Sanders today when someone said he was just like FDR. FDR was horrible in a lot of ways that are rarely acknowledged and Sanders would be better than him. Which had the curious result in this person stomping off in anger.

    • The captain was widely blamed for being drunk. But he wasn’t on duty; it was one of the mates on the bridge. Still, that’s why captains get paid the big bucks; they’re expected to be responsible for the actions of their crew 24/7.

      • I suspect there were a lot of other problems on the boat beside. If it hadn’t been this time, it would have been another. If it hadn’t been this boat it would have been another. These things happen all the time. It’s just that this was particularly bad in a particularly bad spot.

    • I suspect that this person meant it as a compliment. What should be said is that Sanders is in the tradition of FDR and Johnson. He certainly isn’t in the tradition of Trotsky. But yes, FDR is a big part of what bound northern liberals with southern bigots.

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