The crisis of the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reminded us of the fragility of not only our technology, but also of our ecosystems. As our leaders continue to come up short in their efforts to staunch the flow, the fact grows ever clearer that this event will have wide-reaching and long-lasting effects on the health of the Gulf, its wildlife, and the surrounding communities.
Criticisms of every variety have been launched at officials of BP, President Obama, and anybody with a connection to the situation. There seems to be a consensus that we ought to understand the technology we employ, and that we ought to be prepared for inevitable failures. There is no excuse for the present helplessness in the face of this human-caused catastrophe.
But the spill should remind us also that safety regulations, contingency plans, and repair technology will never insulate us from the destruction that is inevitable when we operate without regard for the limits of our humanity and Earth. An economy that relies so heavily on staggering quantities of fossil fuels cannot be called “responsible.” Our relentless drive for production and consumption – even at the expense of communities and ecosystems – cannot be called “safe.”
The oil spill should teach us lessons about the practicalities involved in accessing natural resources, should lead to improved safety regulations, and should prompt the development of robust backup plans. But it should also lead us to question whether our present course can be sustained. As people of faith who reverence all of Creation, we ought to know that it simply cannot.