Palm Beach, by Ren Adams

The oil spill calls to mind this passage from the Tao Teh Ching:


Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.

The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.

There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.

The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.

–Lao Tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell


The Deepwater Horizon Oilspill has the potential to affect every living thing on the planet.

Ignoring the situation to focus on American Idol or soccer does not help. Turning the situation into petty politics diverts attention from solving the real problem. Saying you don’t care about it because it only “affects America” is also deflective and irresponsible (and incorrect–it affects the ocean ecosphere, which touches all of us).

If you try to follow the story in the news, the information is incomplete. It’s like an old whodunit. Notice how easily info is swept under the proverbial rug, sidelined by celebrities or deflected into heated politics.

6 million gallons (at least) are flowing into the ocean DAILY. The oil spill has been pumping columns of oil for ALMOST TWO MONTHS (today is day 78 of the spill). “Has it been that long?”

This is very real.

This is not about America vs. England as some make it out to be. That kind of thinking is narrow-minded and focused on the self. It’s not about Obama vs. whoever. Disasters don’t know illusionary borders or political parties.

Politics may be deeply involved in the reasons oil was being drilled in the first place, or behind the shoddy safety and containment system, or behind the fact that BP is still in charge of the cleanup–but the disaster has moved beyond the political forum. It’s now in an area that should concern everyone. We might ask: why is it still spilling and how many decades of post-spill damage are we in store for?

What can we, as individuals do to help–and to mindfully prevent tampering with the world in the future?

Over a month ago, when the oil spill was still in its early weeks I remember saying this was going to end up as the worst ecological disaster of modern civilization. I could feel it. Unlike the call to action for Haiti, there was little response from the community at large–though the number of compassionate and concerned souls has been steadily growing,  many sharing the same sense of helplessness. The oil spill has already been declared the worst in American history and it keeps growing.

The waves of damage are not about globs of oil ruining a tourist beach. They’re about the prolonged, protracted impact of the damage–on everything.

Everything we do has a radiating impact on everything around us. Every one, and every thing.

The initial problems from the spill are only the beginning. Waves of damage, which will continue to unfold for years after the event, will impact the fishing industry and economy, sea life, underwater biospheres and ecological culture already held in a fragile balance, wildlife, nature preserves (Louisiana indigineous swamplands, coastal ecosystems), ocean species of many varities, birds, coastal economies–and with the potential to radiante outward and affect shipping lanes, rainfall, the oil industry, the price of gasoline, the climate–you name it.

All things are connected.

And even with all of this, there are people who say they don’t care about the oil spill–that it’s funny ’cause it’s hitting America. I’ve seen a number of tweets on Twitter related to this, and it saddens me. (!!) Soccer is more important. I am always amazed by this kind of thinking and lack of awareness. This is not about America, again. It’s about a body of water that laps the shores of countless countries and continents. If they think a few retirement condos in Florida are the only things affected, they’re wrong.

What can we do to help? Awareness is important. Understanding is key. Allowing yourself to admit where you’ve been wrong and work toward a positive resolution… also important.

We’ve set something in motion–and now it will play out. If we let things go their own natural way, they unfold organically. When we try to control things–drilling, digging, blasting, we lose touch with the natural order. We’ve got to remind ourselves to find balance in everything we do.

If we need oil for the modern world, we need to learn delicacy and balance when retrieving it. If we know oil is the wrong path, we need to work harder toward a less impactful one.

We can’t dismiss disasters because they’re not in our own backyard, or because people don’t seem directly affected.

If we each do a little every day toward remembering that we are part of the flow, not the King of it, it will help lessen tampering. If you live close enough to volunteer for clean-up, give it a shot. If not, do what else you can. I’ve donated artwork for a charity that’s organizing artists for OxFam America and the National Audobon Society. Anything we can do, helps.

And to prevent future spills? Well, a lot needs to be changed. Those who know me know that I’m not an eco-nazi. I’m not even usually involved in politics or “calls to action.”

I feel strongly about this, though–that we’re tampering with the world in ways that we need to curb. Being aware of this and not hiding within the “bread and circuses” mentality, we can help in small ways (or maybe great ways, if enough of us are doing a small part).

A starting point for various articles and data:

Help the Gulf Coast – arts and crafts sold to raise funds for clean-up charity.