Gulf Oil Spill


I’m working on pulling together words and ideas from psychological theory to explain why we let this happen, how it will affect us, and what we can do to encourage people to stop hurting our planet.  As the sick and wounded wildlife covered in oil begin to appear, and as life forms are decimated- from the small organisms that are the foundations of existence to the people who died – this disaster looms large. My son tore his pillowcase to shreds.  Kids who care feel pretty hopeless.  I suppose adults can’t manage it any better, really. We have however signed up to volunteer. What follows are some helpful links to stuff that I have been reading and comments from colleagues. If you have others please send them along.  I’ll be posting updates as I encounter them.

UPDATES from Glenn Albrecht and Renee Lertzman after the jump.

News: here, here, here and here

Blogs: here, here, here, here,here, and here

Glen Albrecht is a Professor of Sustainability and also Director of the Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy (ISTP) at Murdoch University in Australia.

He wrote: unfortunately I have a long history of grieving for the northern (USA) Gulf. It has been a “dead Gulf floating” for some time now. The issue of hypoxia from pollutants entering its waters from USA agribusiness has been the major cause of the “Dead Zone”.

The oil spill is just another insult to a place that is dying under the relentless impact of human greed (no longer ignorance).

From some recent websites we can learn that:

The average size of the hypoxic zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico over the past five years (2004-2008) is about 17,000 km2, the size of Lake Ontario. For comparison, the entire surface area of the Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries measures about 11,000 km2.  See this and this and this.

It is interesting that we all respond to “quick poison” (the current disaster) but not many people notice the  “slow poison”. The whole of climate change can be seen as a failure to respond to slow poison. The psychology of this needs more consideration.

Renee Lertzman is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Portland Center for Public Humanities, and the Center for Sustainable Processes & Practices at Portland State University.

She wrote: “Although her work is not remotely psychological or psychoanalytic, Barbara Adam’s book “Timescapes of Modernity” addresses well this issue of interdeterminate, ‘invisible’ environmental threats. While she does not theorise the psychic, it doesn’t mean that we can’t. More recently environmental psychologists are writing about this dimension of climate – the argument that we fail (‘we’ being used somewhat generally and crudely here) to respond precisely because it’s not immediate, etc enough. I feel psychoanalysis has much to offer this area, as well as more recent theoretical work in affect theory.”

UPDATE: More links

EPA website

Dotearth (

Paul Krugman

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One Response to “Gulf Oil Spill”

  1. David Schatsky Says:

    This tragedy reminds me, for some reason, of a film about Cain and Abel I saw as a young boy. The violent act was too much for my young sensibilities. But I remember Cain wailing with remorse, his hands soaked with blood. And now I associate the oil streaming from the earth’s crust a mile under water with that blood, amd Cain’s remorse as our own for letting this happen.

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