the story isn’t over

A lot of people will be ready to say the story is over, but that’s like saying that you put the bottle of poison down after drinking only a pint of it.

Writing her diary during days out on the sea, Rebecca Solnit asserts ‘oil spill’ is the wrong term. ‘Blowout’ is a better word for this oil that didn’t pour down but welled up like magma from the bowels of the earth.

The blowout was not only the biggest oil spill in American history by far: it’s a story that touches on everything else – taints everything, like the black glop on sandy beaches, on pelicans, terns, boats, sea turtles, marshlands and dolphins.

It’s about climate change, peak oil, the energy future, the American presidency, about corporate power and the corrosive effect of Big Oil on global politics.

It’s also about technology, geology, biology, oceanography, ornithology, the rich, deeply entrenched cultures of the Gulf, about human health and risk management, about domestic violence, despair, drinking, unemployment, bankruptcy, about British pension funds, the wake-up call to shareholders and the class action suit brought by the New Orleans chef Susan Spicer of the restaurant Bayona because contamination, scarcity or outright loss of the primary ingredients in the region’s cuisine – shrimp, crab, fish and crayfish – is one current and probably continuing outcome of the blowout.

‘Blowout’ is a better word.

The whole region had become something like the Western Front, a place where you might run into pockets of poison gas, except that this wasn’t a battlefront: it’s home, for pregnant women, for children, for old people who’ve spent their entire lives here, for people who love the place passionately, for people who don’t know any place else on earth and don’t want to go anywhere, and for people who can’t, at least economically. And for countless birds, fish, crustaceans, cetaceans and other ocean life.

The blowout is about global capital, and about policy, and about the Bush-era corruption that turned the Minerals Management Service into a crony-ridden camp that didn’t do its job, and about Big Oil, and about a host of other things. But it is also about the destruction we’ve all seen in the images, which are horrible in a deep and primordial way.