The collapse of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico continues to tear through both working class lives, and the ability of the Gulf’s ecosystem to create and sustain life.
Eleven workers lost their lives in the accident, and now the livelihood of more working class families are threatened.
A mechanism that should have sealed the well in the event of a blowout failed, and now hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil are spilling out, threatening to create another dead zone in the Gulf.
A device, known as an acoustic switch, could have prevented this massive spill. But despite earning almost $6 billion in profits, BP resisted regulation that would have required these devices to be installed on deep sea oil rigs.
While the entire coastal region is threatened, a state of emergency has been declared in Louisiana. Wetlands and marshes along the coast, already under stress due to capitalist land use planning, are now being threatened with collapse.
In addition, hundreds of families who make a living in the fishing industry are losing work due to the contamination. BP is recruiting them for “paid volunteer work” to assist in the cleanup, but are denying them basic safety equipment and compensation for either injury or damage to their equipment.
The extant of the devastation is being described as a Hurricane Katrina redux. There is a general sense of helplessness and malaise, as some held signs demanding help from Obama along the road as he drove through Louisiana.
Capital’s global crisis, thought to be slowing down, is not hovering; it’s dropping like a hammer on both the working class and planet earth. The profit demands of the current energy infrastructure based overwhelmingly on coal and oil have proved to be an obstacle to transition towards an ecologically sustainable energy production. Obama’s expansion of offshore drilling, the maintenance of a coal-centered energy production via Copenhagen, and the expansion of nuclear energy production in the US in over 30 years are just the most recent examples.
But as the spill in the Gulf demonstrates, this energy economy is inextricably bound up with the ability of capital to attack and exploit the working class and ecological systems. Complex life requires more complex ecosystems to survive, but capital has long demanded that we forfeit the very conditions of life for it to grow. The future of free life on this planet will depend on the working class’s ability organize itself against these attacks.
Below are two articles on the catastrophe.