The Common Good

Big Oil Isn't Just a Gulf Coast Crisis

An oil rig exploded into fire, and a huge oil spill -- perhaps the biggest in history -- is spreading across the Gulf of Mexico and will soon wreak both ecological and economic devastation on the Gulf Coast of the United States. And in a desperate effort to prevent utter eco-disaster, our leaders have set the Gulf itself on fire. There is a way to turn this disaster into healing -- and that depends on us.

Why did President Obama propose putting more oil rigs off the East Coast and Gulf Coast?

Because that offer was a preemptive surrender to Big Oil to purchase its tolerance of a Congressional climate bill, just as the deals the White House cut with Big Pharma and Big Health Unsurance were preemptive surrenders to buy their tolerance for the health-care bill before it reached the floor of Congress.

Big Oil is poisoning not just the Gulf, but along with Big Coal and Big Meat, the earth as a whole. They are the crucial sources for the greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide and methane -- that are heating the earth, creating intense weather disturbances, unprecedented droughts, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, crop disruptions, the spreading of tropical diseases like dengue fever into formerly temperate-zone regions.

More oil drilling means not only more danger of immediate eco-disaster to the American coastline, but more power to the Big Oil companies that are scorching the earth.

And Old King Coal, that lethal old soul, is less dramatic but just as destructive. The Massey coal mine disaster, mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia, clouds of unbreathable smoke in the poverty-ridden neighborhoods where most coal-power plants are sited -- they kill people locally while burning coal is disrupting our climate, globally.

The political decisions that endanger specific locales also endanger our planet as a whole.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center, co-author of The Tent of Abraham, and author of Godwrestling--Round 2, Down-to-earth Judaism, and a dozen other books on Jewish thought and practice, as well as books on U.S. public policy. The Shalom Center voices a new prophetic agenda in Jewish, multireligious, and American life. Click here to receive the weekly online Shalom Report.

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