Posted by: Michael D. Austin | May 25, 2010

Obama’s Epic Failure. We’ve Ignored Our Common Sense and Instincts.

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President Obama’s weekly May 22nd, 2010 address

True progress can occur only if you act on solid facts.

Over the last five weeks our national leader, President Barack Obama, has made mistake upon mistake in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. I voted for him and it’s an indication of my trust in America’s potential that I’m glad I did. I thought he represented one of America’s best chances for positive change to come in quite some time. And in some ‘business-as-usual’ respects he has been that man. My favorite accomplishment of his has been to catalyze what seems to be wholesale change of national health care, and I thank him mightily for that. I’d love to shake his hand for it and thank him.

But any man’s not the measure of just one of his acts. And I’m sure there might be more to the list I see if President Obama hadn’t begun acting the career politician and begun to believe his own political propaganda. I’d be willing to stand face-to-face with him, presenting irrefutable facts which would easily show anyone actually paying attention that he’s intentionally side-stepping each important environmental concern which comes before him.

This is me talkin’ here, not just journalist Mike Austin. Now I’m so surprised about President Obama’s epic failure in responding to the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, that my great grandchildren will be taught what he has done. It won’t be enough to simply let my children have popular history influence their opinion of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. It has become a dark, international touchstone on President Obama’s attitudes toward the Earth, its people and its myriad forms of life. They’ll hear in detail about how it wasn’t handled well and why. Like I’ve written recently, President Barack Obama is anyone but a president for sustainability.

Yeah, I know that sounds heretical. And I hope he’ll reverse many of his destructive positions. I believe that people can often change their destiny by changing their actions, and I’d be overjoyed if President Obama started acting like a president which has the Earth’s interests at heart. But I don’t see him doing that. If fact I see the opposite.

But you can make your own informed decision about this by simply looking at a very short list of facts about what he done – and not done. I’m not the only one who thinks this; there are legions of respected organizations who would agree if you asked them to be honest. I’d challenge you to do just that right now, using your own informed opinion.

And remember – a spill is when you fumble a carton of orange juice onto your kitchen floor as you’re late for work, and have to take five minutes you don’t have to clean it up so ants don’t take over before you come home. A disaster is something for which there’s never any easy response, which can take decades or even hundreds of years from which to recover. No amount of political spin or minimization should ever change that, or you’re playing for a team that subverts the meaning and purpose of common sense.

The international Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil disaster, sponsored by Dubya, the Minerals Management Service and President Obama’s complicity, is a disaster of nearly unfathomable scale to humans. Ask any decently trained ecologist. Computer modeling for it can only be a best guess. Long ago we reached our human limits to fully grasp the carrying capacity of our world and how we affect it. An entire ecosystem’s collapse is now in progress in the Gulf of Mexico, which will have life-killing repercussions around the world for hundreds of years.

Here are many of the facts which lead me to these conclusions. Where there’s smoke, there’s always fire. Always trust your instincts – you have them for good reasons:

  • From the beginning, the president of the United States of America had the legal authority to do what’s required to solve the Gulf oil disaster. It’s written in our laws. Right now as you read this.The Oil Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 provided this for Obama: “(A) If a discharge, or a substantial threat of a discharge, of oil or a hazardous substance from a vessel, offshore facility, or onshore facility is of such a size or character as to be a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States (including but not limited to fish, shellfish, wildlife, other natural resources, and the public and private beaches and shorelines of the United States), the President shall direct all Federal, State, and private actions to remove the discharge or to mitigate or prevent the threat of the discharge.”It doesn’t say “may” direct, “can” direct, or “may choose to direct.”  It says “shall,” and in legal terms, that’s a clear obligation to actually do it. Read this from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
  • But even if it wasn’t the president’s responsibility, did that stop Dubya from conducting Guantanamo interrogations outside the law when he thought that was in the nation’s best interests?
  • In one interview on camera, Obama’s dismissive tone was that the size of the disaster doesn’t matter, and that it’s most important to clean it up. That was a bad, transparent idea. For one of hundreds of simple comparisons, ask the director of any hazmat team if the size of the accident is important. One of my distinguished Blue Planet Almanac radio guests didn’t believe me when I recounted what Obama did. But I saw it and heard it – and Obama’s intention was clear. He was trying to politely intimidate someone questioning him to distract their attention. That the size of the disaster is unimportant is absolutely, unequivocally, irrevocably nuts.
  • Why should we care that President Obama has appointed a commission to study what happened, when the problem of the disaster remains unsolved? A disaster many orders of magnitude larger than the fabled Exxon Valdez is still happening as this is being written. Before we study what happened, you first solve the problem.
  • Far too many stories of both scientists and journalists being stonewalled about the disaster or having their samples and data confiscated have surfaced. Either our government or BP have allowed this to occur, and it must stop immediately. It’s not possible that the president of one of the most powerful countries in the world doesn’t know this is happening. First, I saw video of a CBS reporter turned away from the scene of the crime. Next I heard reports from someone on-site who witnessed scientific samples being confiscated. Next, I read Mac McClelland’s first-hand stories about it. If the U.S. is truly an open culture, then President Obama would have instantly stopped this sort of thing.

And, in addition to these things, aside from the Deepwater Horizon disaster….

  • Hundreds of respected, non-governmental organizations and hundreds of thousands of scientists – people who make it their business to provide us the truth – have said that climate change threatens life on earth and civilization. For many years. But instead of arriving ready to strike deals at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Cop-15 conference, Obama showed up unprepared, and at the last minute. In practical effect, he said, we didn’t have time to prepare and we’ll have to get back to you.
  • Obama’s in favor of nuclear power, instead of making the change to sustainable energy which doesn’t have consequences. Do you really think there’s any government, anywhere, which is capable of ensuring that the nuclear waste we generate will be safe for 500,000 years? That’s never gonna happen in this universe.
  • Against worldwide science and international sentiment to the contrary, Obama wants to lift the international whaling ban. Humanity’s life-killing impact on the planet is legendary, and just yesterday one excellent marine biologist told me that we’ve already wiped out 90% of our fisheries. And he wants to extend that same policy toward cetacea?

So when you watch President Obama and his administration present their policies, would you then say he’s pro-business? The passing of the buck is supposed to stop at his unmatched desk. What could really be said to be true about his lasting effect on sustainability?


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