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Back in the Day

Slicks and Slickers

A question of which crime is worse: an ecological disaster or the responses in the aftermath.

Book Cover In American history one might corral any number of examples—Vietnam and Iraq, Warren Harding and George Bush, the elections of 1876 and 2000, Enron and AIG et al., and more—to support a theory which maintains that as a nation, the United States does not seem to learn from its mistakes (which leads one to a number of conclusions, none of which Americans should be proud). You may remember another ecological disaster some 20 years ago—the Exxon Valdez, which wrought extensive damage and havoc up in Alaska—and now comes the Great Gulf Oil Spill of 2010.

The current emergency obviously raises questions about safeguards and supervision, and it remains to be seen whether, in the aftermath, there is a responsible and effective response to the calamitous events yet unfolding. Dr Riki Ott (Sound Truth and Corporate Myth$), a marine biologist and former commercial fisherman who lived in the Alaska environs affected by the earlier catastrophe, has written Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Chelsea Green), whose title suggests a less than satisfactory resolution to to the nation’s largest oil spill.

Ott writes:
This book tells the history of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the events leading up to it and away from it from the point of view of the town arguably most affected by this slice of history: Cordova, Alaska. Not surprisingly, the story believed, embraced, and perpetuated by ordinary people is at odds with the corporate lore—the dominant story of these events. Like Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States, this book reflects events from the trenches, not the corporate board rooms, from the people who write an overly large share of the risk of our society’s oil dependency, not from those who reap an overlarge portion of the benefits from it.
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