Oil covered brown pelicans found off the Louisiana coast and affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico wait in a holding pen for cleaning at the Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Buras, Louisiana, June 9, 2010.
Archive for June, 2010
AP Photographer Charlie Riedel just filed the following images of seabirds caught in the oil slick on a beach on Louisiana’s East Grand Terre Island. As BP engineers continue their efforts to cap the underwater flow of oil, landfall is becoming more frequent, and the effects more evident.
This photo just posted to the Guatemalan Government’s Flickr feed shows a spontaneous sinkhole (”hundimiento”) 20 meters deep and 15 wide that appeared today in Zone 2 of Guatemala City, after overwhelming saturation of rains from tropical storm Agatha. Local press reports that it swallowed an entire 3-story building. Not Photoshop, sadly: these happen from time to time during major storms in part because of unstable geology, and in part, bad urban engineering—read more about it in the comments. A break in the over-stressed sewage pipes after the storm was the cause for this one. There are rumors of other sinkholes now forming nearby.
It’s been 6 weeks since an underground explosion at Upper Big Branch mine sparked a storm of controversy surrounding the coal industry, the effectiveness of state and federal environmental and industrial regulation, and workers’ safety, all in the context of a broadening dialog surrounding the effects of climate change. And of course, 29 miners lost their lives.
It wasn’t long before that conversation was pushed to the back pages of newspapers and news websites. Quickly, the editorials stopped coming in, the disaster being mentioned as mere digressions in larger debates. The BP Oil Spill is the current topical narrative that the public conversation is being framed around. But coal disasters keep happening. Within the last two weeks, three major coal mining disasters have happened. In Russia, at least 90 people were killed, in China 14 are dead, and in Turkey, 32 miners are trapped underground after an explosion yesterday.
A grim state of affairs to say the least, but the fickle nature of news media and public interest are telling once again. Soon after something urgent happens, such as the Big Branch disaster, a wake up reminder to some of the dangers of coal country, other news events quickly outpace any progress that is made from the spotlight. Last week’s news talk was about how heavy the hand of the oil industry is when it comes to new regulatory practices, only to systematically ignore them in the future. It’s speculated that this type of paradigm is partially responsible for disasters like the current one in the Gulf. This systematic problem is exactly the same in Appalachian coal fields. Employees and citizens know the dangers of the job and accept the reality as permanent, when stronger federal enforcement and a real progress towards renewable energy sources could quickly change the industry. Recent news narratives in the wake of the Upper Big Branch tragedy picked up on this, quoting miners and coal field residents that effectively translated their experience as feeling helpless in the belly of the beast.