Wednesday, June 02, 2010


The news surrounding the British Petroleum oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is becoming more and more disheartening. It’s putting me in a black, oily frame of mind right here at the beginning of summer. I don’t normally delve into politics on these pages (pages?) but I feel a special affinity for the people of the gulf coast, having family who lived there and living on the panhandle of Florida myself for a short while after getting married. I spent a fair amount of time in New Orleans for long weekends, a longer honeymoon, and one business-related trip only two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit. The good people in that area of the country are, mostly, hard workers who don’t deserve the hand they’re being dealt.

Whose job is it to clean up the mess? I don’t care, but somebody needs to do it. They all need to do it, everyone from the oil companies to the rig’s owner to the government. A story in today’s paper says that “the solution to the BP disaster is at its heart an engineering problem, and one the government has acknowledged it is in no position to fix on its own.” And of course it isn’t. The government can’t be expected to engineer a cap for a gushing oil well a mile away just as it wouldn’t be expected to land men on the moon 238,857 miles away, or control a drone airplane in the skies of Iraq from Tampa, FL, 6,961 miles away.

In the same story, Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University professor of environmental sciences states, “It is an engineer’s nightmare …” I disagree. Trying to fit a 21-inch cap over a 20-inch pipe from a mile away is an engineer’s dream. This kind of thing is why men and women study engineering. They’ll figure it out, just ask them how. Ask all of them.

Not a week into summer and my kids have made a mess of epic proportions in their rooms. It’s an environmental disaster and who will clean that up? The government? I send the kids in to clean it up and they come back hours later looking dejected and worn to the bone. “It didn’t take,” they say. “We tried everything we could.”

The living room, too, looks like its own junk shot and they don’t even own that space. They lease it from me. So whose responsibility is that? Mine as the owner of the sofa and the TV and the area rug, or those who have taken it and used it as their own? It’s the kids’ job to clean it for the good of the entire household. And they will clean it or I will cap off the opening, seal it off for good from them.

I make light of the situation in the gulf, but it’s not funny. Neither is my children’s environmental hygiene funny. I have no answer for how to get kids to clean up after themselves, nor do I have any answers for how, or who, should stop the oil leak and clean up the mess. But somebody needs to because there is a lot more at stake than daddy’s sanity.