Today finds me deeply grieving over the oil spill following the April 20th tragic loss of a British Petroleum oil rig 48 miles off the Louisiana shoreline. The latest estimate is that 200,000 gallons of oil are fouling the Gulf of Mexico every day. Current plans to contain the leak on the sea floor may take several weeks and are untested at these depths. Long term plans are also iffy and will take three months or more. If twenty wildlife refuges and 400 species are threatened after only ten days, what about three months from now?
I thought I was used to corporate and governmental foolishness, but I was not ready for this. Sealing a leak a mile below the surface seems to have everyone shrugging their shoulders. BP’s original environmental impact analysis for this rig stated that a huge spill was “unlikely, or virtually impossible.” Their plans for responding to oil spills did not even address the possibility that their seafloor equipment might fail. Now, because such a major spill is “unprecedented” at a depth where water pressure is well over a ton per square inch, no one knows what to do.
So if they did not even think to prepare for such a disaster and are not certain how to deal with it, why were they drilling at this depth? Why were they allowed to drill at this depth? It reminds me of the proverb …
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. Proverbs 14:16 ESV
In this case, the cost of our recklessness could be enormous. I hope they can drop containers to restrict the oil flow soon. I hope the leak does not increase five-fold, as some have speculated. But this man-made disaster has the potential of eclipsing any other that has come before. Multitudes of God’s creatures could be destroyed, and entire ecosystems could be wrecked. I believe God cares about these creatures and the home he specifically designed for them. I’m not talking about “animal rights;” I’m talking about something much more important. I’m talking about God’s good pleasure, or in this case his displeasure. It matters when we make God sad … or mad.
Of course, that displeasure will also extend to the way countless livelihoods and entire communities will be ruined, and how an enormous amount of our grandchildren’s money will be invested to mitigate the consequences. My point is simply that what we have done in the Gulf is the kind of irresponsible behavior that displeases God in the extreme. It is reckless and careless, what he labels as the work of fools. Not that oil drilling or even offshore drilling is foolish in itself. We have been so shortsighted in our energy policy that such dangerous activities must be considered. But it is absurd to risk huge ecological disaster without first being reasonably certain we can handle catastrophic failure.
We didn’t risk the lives of a handful of astronauts without years of expensive testing and fail-safe preparations. We would never think of building a nuclear power plant in a populated area without adequate safety controls in place from day one, instead of hoping that they might figure out a way to deal with a complete meltdown in the unlikely event such a thing occurred. It is mind boggling to discover that deep sea drilling has been attempted without any thought given to massive failure.
Why do we do such things? I am reminded of another proverb, one which I think of as complimentary to the one quoted above …
The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. Proverbs 17:24 ESV
Wisdom looks for what is right and pursues it responsibly. In this day and age, I would think that wisdom would put all available resources into developing a sustainable energy plan, investing in whatever research we need in order to expand energy resources in reasonable safety.
Foolishness builds castles in clouds. It overlooks problems in plain sight to search the horizon for huge profits. Foolishness gives little thought to risk or realistic planning for possible failure.
I dearly hope my concerns are unfounded. I pray that BP will demonstrate remarkable skill and seal the leak they caused within days.
But it is increasingly likely that the Gulf of Mexico and its creatures will be horribly wounded for decades to come. Economic calamity is already predicted for the region, and the tragedy may be only just beginning. At the current rate, this leak will release in two months as much oil as the one of the worst ecological disasters in history, Exxon Valdez. But what if the leak expands five-fold, as some fear, poisoning the Gulf of Mexico with 1,000,000 gallons of oil each and every day? (I am not comforted that the future of the Gulf is in the hands of an underinsured private company facing billions in lawsuits.)
And what if it takes four months to stop the flow of oil? Or six months? What if it turns out that we simply do not yet have the technology to seal multiple oil hemorrhages a mile under water? What then? Apparently, no one asked such questions. Certainly no one demanded answers.
Recklessness and carelessness. Overlooking wise precautions to search the ends of the earth for treasure. The consequences could be staggering.
But amidst all our concern about the economic and human impact of what we have done, let us please not forget the worst part of it all: we have offended our Creator. Our foolishness has trashed his property, endangered creatures he loves and injured people in his image.
While we do all we can to practically deal with this, let’s also tell God that we are heartsick, ask his forgiveness, repent of our foolishness and humbly rest in the grace of his Son, who took all our pollution upon himself.