Black Water – Podcast #011

Years ago, I was the only female on a project for the hookup and commissioning of an oil platform off the Southern California coast, north of Santa Barbara.  My job was onshore computer functions, technical support, and employee relations. Translation: I ran errands and took the men that were injured to the hospital., went and loaded steel plates in the back of the company truck, ran toilet paper out to the helicopter, went and selected their movies at the local movie rental place. And I took the heat when someone had to get fired, because the thinking was they were less likely to punch me in the nose than the next guy.  When I saw where I was going to be working, I was horrified.  The only bathroom in the heliport had a door that didn’t lock or close all the way and it was right where the men congregated to wait to get out to the platform. I immediately told my boss, “I will not drink any water until this project is over!” In a weird bit of coincidence, my boss and I had the exact same birthdate, same year, and same place. We were two little babies in those plastic beds on rollers, side by side, never knowing we would one day be reunited on a tragic mission of folly.

Hooking Up An Offshore Oil Platform

I went out on the helicopter to the platform a lot. Sometimes the helicopter pilot would ask me to come along to even out the load; other times it was just for company.  He said that flying a helicopter was about as interesting as running to the end of the street, running back, and repeating ad nauseum every day, every week, every year.  My son voiced fear about my flying on the helicopter but I told him not to worry. Sadly, before the end of the project, there was a fatal helicopter crash and all on board were killed. It seems helicopters are very unstable.  My son has always been wise beyond his years; he never even said, “I told you so!”

The platforms are like small cities way out in the water.  They operate in a way that is rather incredible, and because they are in the middle of the ocean, the winds and storms hit them hard with no land mass to soften the blow or break up the impact.   There were close quarters for sleeping and a roomy dining area with decent cuisine, a host of people working to take care of the men who were working to take care of the platform.  I remember asking why there was the rainbow sheen of oil on the water surrounding the platform, and was told that was just normal, it had nothing to do with the oil platform.   I was shocked to learn that when the oil rig is done pumping oil, they take the top off but leave the platform.  Abandoned old platforms were dotting the ocean, and it did not take the wildlife long to set up housekeeping on them. Still, it seemed rather rude to litter the landscape with cast off platforms. It seemed downright disrespectful.

The Controversy Over Oil Platforms and Petroleum Products in the Ocean

There had been a lot of controversy about the platforms for years, and I was on the side opposing them for environmental reasons.  But as a single mom, I desperately needed the job, with two growing sons and two hungry cats at home to support.  It meant an incredibly long commute but I signed up anyway. Planting a metal beast in the ocean is no small undertaking. Just fighting the “June Gloom” to get the guys out on the platform was a major task, with the fog making it impossible to fly much of the time.

One can of motor oil out there could do a lot of damage, because there is an entire world under that water. It may be a world with which most of us are unfamiliar, but it is an entire ecosystem nonetheless.  When I first heard about the BP spill, I felt for those men out there working and killed so unnecessarily. I felt for their families. But I was also very aware of all the damage and death that was going on beneath the water, so deep down that we humans have no idea what we just unleashed. There were already dead zones in the ocean, and much of the sea life has already been decimated. There is an island of plastics larger than Texas out in the ocean,  and all those plastic bits are degrading into smaller pieces, killing and destroying wildlife. A single plastic bag, caught in the wind, can end up in the ocean and fool a marine animal into thinking it is a jellyfish, an unlucky surprise that ends in death. I have seen dozens of photos of those plastic rings that keep six-packs together, with a living animal trapped in it.  If there is this huge island out there somewhere, I am always amazed that we humans aren’t cleaning it up. If every nation would just go get a few barges full, we could stop the disaster it is creating, but we don’t. We could all use cloth bags, but we don’t. We don’t see it so we don’t deal with it.  And the innocent animals keep paying the price for our passivity.

The Mission of Folly Completed – Death, Bankruptcy, Injury

At the end of the project on which I worked, the platform was installed, but the company I worked for went bankrupt. The helicopter pilots never got paid. My money went into getting my car in good shape for those long commutes – at the end of the project I was hit by a high school student who was too busy fighting with his girlfriend to watch the road; my car was totalled and I never recovered any of the investment I had put into the car. Men died on that platform. Animals die, too. With the leaking wells in NY leaking for 50 years, the ones in the Amazon, the ones in Niger delta…this one..the growing island of plastics and the ever increasing dead zones in the ocean….it seems as if we are determined to destroy every bit of wildlife on this earth.

Two words come to mind: destruction, and deception.  I have heard reports that BP has people pulling dead animals from the shores, lest people realize the full scope of this disaster.  But even if they left the carcasses, no human will ever fully realize the scope of the disaster.  It is the animals, both human and nonhuman, that will pay for this folly. I think of the men that died on the installation of the platform on which I worked, those that have died working for BP and other oil companies, the millions to billions of animals that will be consumed by the toxicity of the petroleum, by the plastics. I recently tweeted something about the spill and said Go Vegan. I received a nasty tweet back saying shame on me, there is nothing about veganism that has anything to do with the oil spill. I guess if you think veganism is about diet, then you are right. But to me, veganism is about non speciesist respect for life.  I cannot imagine abolitionist vegans invading another’s habitat so callously, treating workers so carelessly, and lying so cavalierly about being prepared. It is behavior unworthy of a vegan.  Abolitionist vegans in particular are respectful and non-violent towards animal life in all its many forms.  What really gets my knickers in a knot is hearing the PR ads that BP is putting out, repeatedly stating that they will “make this right.”  How can they? How can they give our children a healthy ocean again? How can they return the wetlands, the wildlife, the dolphins, pelicans and fish? They don’t even know how to get the oil out of the water and suggest using more toxic ways to deal with the disaster they created, like nuclear options or chemical disbursements – meaning more death and destruction for wildlife. Why is it that Kevin Costner, a mere movie actor, has developed a  machine to remove oil from water, yet none of the oil companies have? And none of them, til now, bought his? Mr. Costner had gone to our congress about this machine, but no one cared. Such passivity is indeed toxic.  Veganism is one answer to these many complex problems which at the root are a disassociation from the natural world of which we are all a part. The end result of our passivity is the ever increasing black waters.

Vegan Abolitionists to Know

Paola Aldana hosts video podcasts all about veganism and abolitionist animal rights. Not only is she a clear spoken vegan, but she is delightful as well. You can find Paola on Facebook and Twitter too. Be sure to subscribe to her podcasts; that way you are alerted via email whenever there is a new one available, and you never miss a thing.

Dr. Roger Yates is a professor of sociology who is also an animal rights legend. He is currently creator of Human NonHuman Relations and one of the hosts on Animal Rights Zone.  His podcasts are by the same name as his blog and are available on iTunes.


Harry Shearer’s Addicted to Oil

Adam Lambert’s Mad World

New Broadway Musical Cast Recording of Cabaret – Money


Best of the Left podcast

Bill Maher – Real Time

Leonard Lopate’s Underreported

Paola Aldana’s You Tube videos

Roger Yates - On Human-Nonhuman Relations

Recommended Films:

Crude - a documentary review

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Aerial View of Oil Platform

Oil platform