Friday, June 25, 2010

Requiem for a Coastline, Part 2

Here we are at day 67 of the Gulf oil spill and things are still going to hell down there. After much fanfare they partially topped off the gushing oil pipe with some kind of cap, which worked sort of well until some underwater robot came by and screwed it up. So they had to open up a bunch of valves and recalibrate something which allowed the oil to gush out again just as before. This is what passes for progress in this situation.

Meanwhile the oil is spreading to the beaches and has wreaked havoc on Pensacola Beach, Florida. It was really heart-rending to see how emotional the residents of that city became when they realized this was only the beginning. They could see their former way of life slip and ebb away just like the tide, except that it will probably not be coming back for a very long time. Probably the hardest things to see go away are the most intangible - qualities that you can't feel or touch, but their absence will change everything. There are ominous stories of oil not only on the surface, but under water where it cannot be seen, and where we can't track where it's going or how extensive it is. And now, the possibility of the season's first hurricane looms further south in the Caribbean Sea. What that will do to an already cataclysmic situation will probably redefine the term "disaster" for the entire world.

And who knew the Brits would suck so badly at public relations? From the very beginning BP seemed to have tremendous luck finding one enormous PR pothole after the other to fall into, the first being a put-upon CEO Tony Hayward complaining that he "wants his life back." Well, I'm thinking the Gulf coast residents want their lives, their livelihood, and their way of life back, too. Have a cup of Earl Gray and a scone with clotted cream on me, Tony, and come back when you've thought about what you said. Then some other high muckety-muck in the company said he felt sorry for the "little people" who are having such a rough time. Some of these aforementioned "little people" felt like they had been sucker-punched in the mouth and then told they were a punk-ass bitch just for good measure. In the BP official's defense, English is not his primary language and probably didn't exactly mean that as it came across. But in this sound-bite world, that doesn't matter - the damage is done and people were steamed about it. Then Tony Hayward again threw oil on that fire by taking a day off to race his yacht in the pristine waters near the Isle of Wight off the English coast. That SO did not play well with the more egalitarian American audience. Add to all that BP's relentless low-balling of their estimates of how many gallons of oil are actually being spewed into the gulf, and their multi-million dollar advertising campaign telling all of us not to worry because they are doing so well in handling the cleanup and paying out claims (a campaign which is having exactly the opposite of the intended effect), and you have all the ingredients of a screw-up of epic, Biblical proportions.

And then Congress, who has never met a bad situation that it couldn't mess up even more, came through for us again big time at a Congressional committee investigation of the oil spill. The day before, the top brass at BP came to the White House for a good old-fashioned spanking by President Obama, and then this idiot Congressman from Texas (name is unimportant since they're all idiots) gets up at the committee hearing and apologizes to the BP executives for the shoddy treatment afforded them at the White House. Oh that made such a lovely sound bite all over the news programs for like three days. This brought a veritable flood of apologies from the lip-flapping Texan and a number of other Republican leaders but amazingly, they still allowed this moron to keep his seat on the Congressional committee. I really hope the Democrats can make political hay out of this one, and make the country realize that the "GOP" should really be the "GOBP."

And while we're on the subject of disgusting, loathsome, toxic spills, Sarah Palin, Queen of the Inbred, let a vast quantity of stupidity gush out of her mouth again at some speech last Friday in Turlock, California. Palin lent her "star power," such as it is, to raise money for a worthy cause, California State University-Stanislaus - a seemingly generous act until you understand that she still found it within herself to charge a $75,000 speaker's fee and request $18,000 in first class travel and accommodations for her scrawny worthless ass and all the crack whores and meth addicts she drags with her from Wasilla, Alaska. Way to raise money, Cal State Stanislaus, drop nearly $100K just to listen to some ignorant hillbilly rant about the evils of the "lamestream media" while being only dimly aware that if it weren't for the "lamestream media" that she so gleefully criticizes, she would be stuck in some 2-by-4 cage in a Wasilla breeding farm, popping out litters of babies to ensure that the prisons and drug dealers will be in business for decades to come.

This oil spill is far, far from over, and I fear it's going to one of those national catastrophes that will demarcate time into "before the spill" and "after the spill." The effects will be with us for decades and the impact of the destruction to the environment is only just begin felt. It probably won't be seen as on a par with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, since that incident was immediate, highly visual and instantly horrifying. The oil spill is a completely different event - much slower, not particularly flashy, and much more long-lasting - but in terms of sheer awfulness it will be up there in the rankings of infamy. But I do believe it will change how things are done in this country forever, as the terrorist attacks did, and maybe in the long view of history that will turn out to be the only good thing that comes from it. But right now all I see are soiled beaches and sea birds, turtles and dolphins dying from this expanding oil plague that the hubris and recklessness of man has inflicted on a singularly special and unique area of the Gulf coast.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Requiem for a Coastline

After forty-odd days of increasingly horrible news coming out of the spill area of the Gulf of Mexico, today brought the first real glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, engineers might be getting the upper hand in controlling the undersea gusher of crude oil left over from an oil rig explosion. Spewing many thousands of gallons of oil each day into the sea, the resultant oil plume has begun the slow-motion, agonizing destruction of one of the most unique and productive seashores in the entire world.

I think most people still don't understand the enormity of the unmitigated catastrophe unfolding in front of the world. The extremely painful videos and photographs of pelicans and sea birds saturated with thick, greasy, brown oil are so very hard to watch, but maybe that is what is needed to shock people into understanding the real tragedy and impact that the carelessness of humans has wrought on an epic scale.

Nor is there a lot of appreciation of the staggeringly difficult task that plugging the oil vent presents. All this is going on under nearly a mile of water, and there are very few environments on earth that are more hostile. The enormous water pressure, low temperature, currents and visibility issues all come together to make any activities especially difficult. Some idiots continue to say brainless things like, "if we can put a man on the moon, why can't we stop this leak?" Well, morons, putting a man on the moon was an incredibly difficult task, too. The lunar landing didn't just happen, it was the culmination of a decade of planning, engineering and just plain courage. Likewise, stopping this leak will entail a bit more than sending down a giant cork and hoping to be done by lunchtime.

Speaking of idiots, that intellectual pile of sludge known as Sarah Palin for some reason finds it necessary to open her big obnoxious yap about this subject, and predictably a torrent of stupidity rivaling the undersea oil leak blows out. She wrote some kind of incredibly dumb blather on Twitter addressed to "ExtremeGreenies," which I guess is her pet name for environmentalists, and tried to make the point that every time she stupidly repeated her dimwitted catchphrase "drill baby drill" over and over again like a retarded mynah bird she wasn't really yammering about drilling for oil offshore, but rather in places that she regards as environmentally safe drill areas like ANWR (Alaska National Wildlife Refuge). And somehow, she feels the Gulf oil spill proves she was right all along. Excuse me???

I guess this incredibly stupid, sad political hack thinks that an oil spill on pristine Alaskan tundra is preferable to an undersea oil spill. Sarah Palin is a gigantic, infected pimple on the ass of society and continues to redefine the outer boundaries of incompetence and stupidity with everything she bleats out in her annoying trailer-trash Barbie doll voice. Apparently at one point they tried to clog up the leaking oil pipes by stuffing it with cement and garbage like golf balls and shredded tires. What they should have done was stuffed the hole with Sarah Palin and BP executives. It just might have solved a lot of obnoxious problems at once.

It is so baffling trying to understand why that beautiful, serene part of the world is victimized repeatedly by disasters, both natural and man-made. A whole string of destructive hurricanes, topped by Katrina, have ravaged that area in recent years. Oil spills both large and small, continued pollution of the sea and air, the draining of natural wetlands to facilitate human development, and the construction over many years of a haphazard, crazy-quilt system of levees, dikes and dams have forever negatively altered the fragile interplay of sun, wind and ocean that make up the coast. Like watching a terminal cancer patient lose their battle with the disease, the death of the Louisiana coast is a supremely painful and unparalleled tragedy for America, made all the worse by the slow, inexorable and deliberate pace of its demise.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sage the Miracle Bunny

Note: In this world of catastrophic oil spills, economic collapse and everyone freaking out over illegal immigration and racial profiling, it often seems that good news is something that happened in the distant past. Occasionally we do come across a story that starts out awful but somehow finds itself a happy ending. This is the true story of Sage, the Miracle Bunny:

Sage is a very handsome, very sweet Mini-Lop rabbit with huge friendly brown eyes that belie the terrible ordeals he has had to endure the past several months. When you pick him and hold him he veritably melts into your arms, and will close his eyes in blissful contentment as you stroke his head. It's so hard to believe how he can surrender himself so completely and trust the touch of a human being after the treatment he has suffered, but one of the most amazing aspects of this wonderful bunny is that he does trust so completely, and so easily.

Where Sage originally came from we have no way of knowing. The only thing we can do is piece together his recent past from anecdotes. A man in the far west Valley had a number of rabbits that he kept in an outdoor hutch. His neighbor noticed that the rabbits were kept in very poor conditions and talked his neighbor into giving him Sage and another bunny. This neighbor also kept the rabbits in some sort of outdoor enclosure, but under marginally better conditions. One night they heard a commotion outside from the rabbit area, and in the darkness they thought they saw a coyote going after the rabbits. The people did not go out to check on the rabbits, claiming to be afraid of the coyote, and when they finally went out to look in the morning, the coyote had bitten off the lower portion of Sage's right front leg. In human terms it would be as if everything past your wrist would be gone. Apparently being too stupid to realize that a little veterinary attention just might be a good thing right then, the care they provided to Sage amounted to taping popsicle sticks to his damaged leg as a sort of splint, and they let him exist that way for three months.

In what would be the first of a series of miracles, Sage's shortened paw healed and did not get infected, despite an inch and a half of visible, exposed bone. The constant pain must have been unimaginable, and I'm sure every step he took was agonizing. One day, a bunny enthusiast from the west Valley was in a grocery store buying vegetables for her rabbits, and she was chatting with the store cashier about bunnies. It just so happened that Sage's owner was standing behind her and overheard their conversation. He started to tell them the story of how he has rabbits and one of them had part of his paw bitten off by a coyote three months ago and how he had hoped the coyote would come back and finish the rabbit off. Needless to say, the bunny person went berserk and talked the man into surrendering Sage to her. She went to his house to get Sage and found another rabbit in the cage with him - a small Holland lop covered with urine stains which we would later name Oscar - so she took both of them. A short time later both bunnies found their way to Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue.

All the volunteers at the Rescue were appalled at Sage's gruesome injury and exposed leg bone, so getting him to our veterinarian was a top priority. Our vet intended to save as much of Sage's leg as he could but ended up removing Sage's front paw completely, up to where it meets his torso. After the surgery Sage went into loving foster care and appeared to recover rapidly, seemingly unfazed by his missing front leg.

Then, on a Saturday night, Sage's story would take a very dramatic turn as he suddenly developed a serious problem with his lungs. He started coughing and choking, and red mucus started coming out of his nose. His foster parents rushed him to the emergency clinic, and when they got there he was laying on his side with his lips turning blue. He was most likely minutes away from death at that point. The clinic put him in their "oxygen cage," kind of an oxygen tent for animals, and after a couple of hours Sage started to sit up, look around and groom himself. Once more, amazingly, Sage had cheated death.

After consulting with the veterinarians, our best guess is that Sage suffered a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in his lungs. These are more often than not fatal, but that was not to be the case for Sage. He went back to foster care and has made an amazing recovery since. He has learned to move around quite well without his leg, and there are YouTube videos here and here of him hopping and frolicking around outside in a grassy yard. Sage loves his daily salads but seems to enjoy being petted and loved most of all. Like any happy, healthy rabbit, he loves to explore but does not have quite the stamina of a regular rabbit. We think his lungs may have diminished capacity due to the embolism, and also moving and hopping around might be more of a strain on him with only three legs. But he knows when he is tired and will stop to take a breather, and when sufficiently rested, will jump up and happily scamper off to take care of more bunny business. Sage went to his first rabbit adoption event recently and was an enormous hit, charming each and every person he met.

Some people think that in our technologically advanced times, the age of miracles is over. When people barely react with more than a slightly-stifled yawn at space shuttle launches or medical breakthroughs, it seems ever easier to overlook the tiny miracles, the little things that happen under our noses each day that are wondrous and uplifting. Every day we have with Sage is one of those little miracles, another opportunity for him to get up and brighten the world with his big heart and sunny disposition, and is an undeniable indication that miracles do, indeed, happen.