Gulf Coast disaster a lesson in hubris

Rage, grief and disgust war for dominance as we watch red-black globs tainting our white beaches, coating pelicans, killing marine life.
While it’s worth the effort of finding out who to blame, the heartbreaking truth is it matters little. As more and more oil gushes into the Gulf, as hydrocarbon globules slither onto the beaches and marshes, we know that no one can make this right. A place of beauty, sacred to so many Alabamians, is being scarred.
Flowing in with the ugly Gulf tide, in addition to oil, is a painful lesson in our relationship with the world.
We are not a part of the Earth in the same way the dying pelicans and dolphins are. We are of the Earth, but have the ability to destroy it. We can work toward the world’s continuation or we can stand in opposition to its life-giving power.
Far more comforting to believe ourselves powerless. It we are trivial, we are not responsible. With weakness comes a release from culpability.
The oil spill accuses us, painfully, of our strength. We impact our planet in a way no other creature can. We have the power to destroy.
Power without humility is fatal. BP officials knew they had the power to tap the raging pressure below the sea floor; they lacked the humility to recognize that once the pressure escaped, they could not bottle it back up.
The collapse of BP would be a minor footnote in the unfolding disaster, but all of us can learn from its hubris.
Our power to break is not always accompanied by the power to fix. With our strength comes a responsibility to refrain from action until we understand our limits.
The devastation on the Gulf Coast is a testament both to our strength and our ignorance. It is a slap in the face of our belief that we can handle the Earth with impunity.
Wisely used, our ability to affect the planet and its inhabitants is a positive. We can stop climate change. We can prevent the extinction of species. We can clean, rather than foul, our air and water.
Like a global bully, however, we show far more muscle than brain. Too often we destroy, marveling at our intellect and forgetting the wisdom that must accompany it.
Buried in the oil-drenched sand of Dauphin Island and Gulf Shores is a lesson on hubris. It is a lesson we need to heed.


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