Opinion: We Are The Oil Turds

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I watched the oil spill with utter dread while visiting my daughter in Spain as yes, it made international news. An oil spill off our coast in 2021! From a ruptured pipeline? Are you kidding me? How hopelessly retrograde.

The 9 biggest oil spills in history – with the exception of BPs Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 – all happened between 1978 and 1994. I remember vividly the images on the nightly news (back when we all huddled around the same three networks) of old, rusty tankers run aground, cleanup crews in yellow protective gear sweeping the beaches, and sick, viscous-shrouded waterfowl unable to flap their wings. It was all so dirty. And then there was the recent discovery of 25,000 barrels of degraded DDT that was long ago dumped on the oceans floor near Los Angeles, dangerously close to disintegrating and releasing all that insecticide into our ecosystem. Youd think those environmental catastrophes would sober us into action to prevent future mishaps.

But somehow now, in probably the richest, allegedly most enlightened region in the world – where every educated, thoughtful and caring person on the planet knows we must rid ourselves of fossil fuels once and for all – we still house oil rigs right off our coast. And people wonder why we are so worried about the spent radioactive fuel being stored at San Onofre.

The sad truth as we know is that money is a religion, and it is superseding any other moral or ethical guidance system we have during our short time on earth. And that its just OK to plunder the land and ocean so long as we get our things faster and cheaper.

I for one not only depend on a healthy ocean for my livelihood, but I also depend on it for a healthy psyche. Nothing makes me feel more bracingly alive than paddling our vibrant coastline, swimming in our roiling sea, body boarding our kinetic waves, or just getting the negative ion hit and briny aromatherapy from our beaches. It is, quite simply, Lagunas defining essence. The goo. Its why most of us choose to live here.

Ill admit I was against the fishing ban back in 2012 because it came from armchair, hidebound progressives who all patted themselves on the back, despite the fact that none of them recreated in the ocean, or even considered the reality that very little commercial fishing ever existed here (except for lobstering). And that a protected sea lion population does way more harm to a balanced fishery. Im generally more for regulating (with seasons, catch limits and education) than prohibitions – especially here where fishing was a low impact, single reel cultural (and generational) activity, and people actually consumed what they caught. But hell, even if we did allow lobstering, what good would it do us because we never see them in our restaurants or markets anyway. Theyre shipped off to the highest bidder— presumably Japan. Thats how removed we are from our own local source of sustenance.  And how pernicious globalism is.

So now I admit the errors of my ways. We need every protection we can get. Man just cant be trusted. After all, look what happened to the white sea bass and abalone populations. Back in the day catch limits on abalone were 100 dozen a day. Thats 1,200 per person per day. As marine biologist and restorer of species Nancy Caruso likes to say, when youre a snail and you taste good, youre doomed.”

Im afraid its all too late anyway. Ive seen the documentaries. I know that plastic bans are the tip of the melting iceberg and just makes us feel a little better about ourselves. But make no real difference to a dying, toxic, overfished ocean. Its man and our rapacious appetite to conquer, exploit and feed an overpopulated world.

Yes the ocean has an amazing capacity to cleanse itself, and eventually we will be rid of those pesky tar balls. But marine life and eco-diversity will slowly dwindle and fade (seen any sea lions at seal rock or starfish lately?). Its a mostly invisible malaise, so we will just move on to the next disaster in our 24-hour news cycle and the big money oil companies will still drill, baby, drill.

Next time you walk our beaches, swim, surf our epic waves, or just watch the sun set over her horizon, say a prayer for Mother Ocean, and perhaps observe a moment of gratitude for all she provides. She gives us so much and only asks in return that we arent callous enough to defile her treasures and kill the very life source that sustains us. Its a promise we have broken far too many times.

Billy hosts Do Good Works on KXFM radio at 8 p.m on Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected].

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