One of the rituals of new year celebrations is nursing the hang-over of over-indulgence, not necessarily from copious libations, but from the realization that all the old problems haven't gone away.
What a lot of people don't realize, thanks in large part to a massive media blackout of real information, is that the south central US sits on a massive lake of oil that rides under Texas, Oklahoma, Louisana, and parts of other southern states. It extends out beyond the continental shelf and has been a major driving force in the development of deepwater oil exploration.
The Mississippi Canyon 252 block, where the blowout took place, is in 5,000 feet of water, where the pressure is roughly 3,000 psi and the temperature is at or below freezing. These factors require the use of remotely operated vehicles at the wellhead, since the danger and expense of sending people that deep is formidable.
The sheer weight of the water and land mass sitting on top of the oil lake is mind-boggling, which is why, when BP punctured the oil-bearing layer, the resulting spew had massive pressure behind it. The gushing oil and gas also eroded the rock and sand around the bore hole, causing fractures and fissures that spread out and away from the actual well. To say the problem is fixed is laughable, at best.
Furthermore, the resulting loss of oil and gas pressure from the oil lake causes a number of cascading effects far from the actual well. In parts of the lake closer to the surface, the land mass on top would slump and push the oil and gas into deeper crevasses. This would result in sinkholes as pressure was released from under the overburden. And that is exactly what has happened.
Another problem that is likely to result is an increase in earthquakes along the New Madrid fault. This would be caused by the release of subsurface pressure, causing the various faults and rifts in the central US to slip and slide around. According to various sources, there seems to be an increase in activity along the New Madrid zone. This is not conclusive evidence that the BP spill is to blame, since EQ activity worldwide is ranging upward, but the coincidence in timing certainly gives pause for thought.
And all of this is overlaid with the inestimable damage to the Gulf coast region. Beaches, marshes, estuaries, animal breeding grounds, and more have been badly damaged by oil and tar. There is a thin layer of oil riding just under the surface across the whole Gulf, not to mention a vast pool of oil and liquified methane resting on the bottom of the Gulf, held down by the pressure and temperature of the water, but needing only a slight disruption, like a major hurricane, to bring that little surprise to the surface.
They're still recovering from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, and that was ship-based. The BP spill released more oil into the environment than any other spill in history, and the resulting release of pressure from the subsurface geology will have long-ranging effects for years to come. The problem is that those responsible will skate because few folks will connect events 10 years from now with this one event.
No one can say with certainty what effects will stem from that event. The only things we have to measure by are the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bomb attacks, and the Chernobyl disaster. In all these cases, the outcomes were...well, disastrous.
Almost 70 years later, people are still suffering the effects of radiation in the atom bomb attacks. Physical and mental scars, birth defects and other serious medical problems persist, though rarely discussed anymore.
As for Chernobyl, the town of Pripyat, Ukraine is a ghost town. Piles of documentation show massive mutations in local wildlife and plants. Radioactive fallout was measured all across northern Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and Canada. Who knows how many folks have suffered numerous medical problems that have not and never will be tied to Chernobyl...at least in the public sphere.
Now we have Fukushima. The sheer scale of this ongoing disaster is mind-boggling. The core or cores are still spewing radiation, millions of gallons of waste water are still being dumped into the ocean, plants and animals are showing mutations far from Fukushima, and radioactive fallout directly tied to the plant has been detected nearly everywhere in the northern hemisphere.
It will be generations before a full assessment of this disaster can even begin to be assembled, assuming there are generations to come that can make the measurements, and the public has the necessary facts to track. That such a massive and ongoing problem has slipped blithely from the headlines is telling, though.
Finally, there is a disadter happening in slow motion that is affecting every human soul on the planet. We have planted a time bomb at the very core of our civilization. We all know it's there, yet we refuse to do anything about it, whether at the 'leadership' level, or at the collective level. That problem is debt.
In the physical universe, all things have an equal and opposite counterpart. Bringing the two together usually results in a massive and destructive release of energy and the annihilation of the two objects: electrons and positrons, matter and antimatter, quarks and antiquarks. Money is no different.
In the realm of money, there is currency and debt. Think of it as money and anti-money. Just like our universe, where matter rules supreme, if anti-matter built up to a sufficient mass, it would ignite and destroy Life, the Universe and Everything. In the same way, if debt builds to a sufficient level, it will destroy an economy and wipe out pretty much everything worth talking about.
It's happened repeatedly throughout history. Most civilizations that have collapsed and disappeared were victims in one way or another of economic collapse, whether from outside or within. In those collapses, the destruction was limited to secluded regions because global economies had not been integrated until the last 100 years or so.
Now we face a rapidly growing amount of anti-money within the universe of our global economy. Any efforts to stem the tide have either failed or were non-starters due to lack of political will and ignorance of the general public. Consequently, we are facing a cataclysmic collapse when the money-anti-money ratio reaches critical mass. At some point, if not already, the reaction will become self-sustaining and nothing will stop it. Many argue that point has come and gone.
In any event, we are careening headlong into a global economic melt-down as the debt ratio continues to climb, and it will annihilate our civilization. Is it the end of the world? No...but it will sure set us back a century or two while we sort out the pieces.
Meanwhile, our media feeds us sports 'news' and celebrity faux pas as real issues and information. Folks blissfully go about their business thinking someone somewhere will solve all these problems for them so that they don't have to drop the TeeVee remote.
As a civilization, most of us are completely ignorant - willfully or not - of the major problems at the foundation of our modern civilization. Thousands of years ago, Hammurabi was able to fix Babylon's debt problems by declaring jubilee yeats every so often and cancelling all debts. That's hardly feasible these days. The nuclear and petroleum disasters are frankly beyond our capability to fix...at least for now. We have so fouled our nest that we are no longer in control of our destiny.
Perhaps that is the source of our collective desire for a savior. Perhaps at some level we realize that we are incompetent to remediate our mistakes. Therefore, we have replaced hope with a burning desire to see the whole thing come crashing down so we can get about the business of rebuilding. However, rebuilding without having learned the lessons of our mistakes will only lead to more of the same.
The time is long past to begin a global, public debate on where we are and where we want to go as a civilization. Perhaps collapse is the best answer, but what then, and can we do anything to lessen the blow. These issues need to be addressed in frank dialogue on a scale never-before attempted by our species.
The problems we face are global and affect every soul on the planet. The dialogue must therefore involve every soul on the planet. We have the technology to do it, but not the will. Nor do we have sufficient information because a variety of interests want to limit liability, control images and wield power. We can not allow it to continue without severe risk to ourselves and our species.
We must place our 'leaders' in boxes and not allow them to wriggle out. We must hold our organizations and institutions accountable and demand that they 'fess up so that we can figure out where we stand. All the dodging and lawyering is destroying us, and secrecy only buries the infection, not cures it.
We have the means, but not the will. On our current course, we will be like deer in the headlights when the truck of history runs over us. Only we, mass humanity, have the power to hold our leaders' feet to the fire.
Or we can just watch the tidal wave coming and hope we become fantastic surfers before it gets here.