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Why Worldchanging Isn't Covering the Oil Spill


Alex Steffen has a fascinating piece up at Worldchanging explaining why they've decided not to cover the BP oil spill.


Shouldn't a site whose purpose is to explore solutions to planetary problems be all over the planet's most visible current problem?

In a word, no. The decision not to cover the BP Spill has been fairly straightforward for us: we don't do problems, unless we're covering them in order to explain how a solution could work, or unless a new analysis of a problem is so telling that it changes the way we understand how it could be solved. The BP Spill is huge, but not particularly unique....

And oil spills are far from the worst environmental disasters we've unleashed and are in the process of unleashing through the routine operation of our economy as currently designed. Climate change will over the next century almost certainly prove far more destructive to the natural systems and human communities of the Gulf than any oil spill ever could, and that's a problem the Deepwater rig would have worsened if it had worked perfectly, as part of its successful operation. And, as we've mentioned here before, climate change is only the largest problem in a set of interconnected problems that stem from transgressing our planetary boundaries, problems that include massive extinctions, marine deadzones, desertification, and ocean acidification.

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He seems to have two points. First, that hand-wringing and finger-pointing aren't very productive. And second, that treating the oil spill as if it's an anomalous disaster just furthers the idea that we're basically doing things right. In Steffen's view, the real story is the systemically unsustainable nature of human life on earth, as currently practiced. The BP spill is just a symptom, and not a root problem.

Most of our coverage here has been devoted to understanding the spill and its effects, providing people with ways to help, or humorously mocking BP so as to keep from sinking into total dispair. I could defend our approach. But I have to say, Steffen's essay has made me think twice about how to cover it.

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