Sunday, May 30, 2010

Managing Catastrophe

Now that the semester is over I'm returning to this research blog. The British Petroleum oil rig explosion, with millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, has been much on my mind this past month. It's a catastrophe for the Gulf ecosystem. A human-made catastrophe. Play with fire and eventually you'll get burnt. Pride goes before a fall. The proverbial expressions are already in place for this spectacular instance of mismanagement, but damage will be so extensive that similar incidents of engineering gone amok such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl don't compare in extent. But a more serious nuclear accident, not to mention a nuclear bomb, would. How far does this sort of thing have to go before people come to their senses and insist that government put an end to it?

Deep ecologists will take this as further evidence that human beings have no business engineering the natural world. Or trying to manage it. Yet attention to values will show there is a difference between engineering and managing for resource extraction and exploitation, such as oil drilling or mountaintop removal, which supports an unsustainable way of life; and the kinds of social engineering and management that aim at conservation.