Black Public Scholars

June 19, 2010

Dr. Julianne Malveaux Speaks on the BP Crisis

William Butler Yeats did a good job of capturing a harrowing pandemonium in his poem, The Second Coming. He wrote, in 1919

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

I was twice introduced to the poem in college, first in a class that required the study of English poets, then in a class that examined African literature, including the powerful novel of Nigerian colonization by Chinua Achebe, ironically titled, Things Fall Apart. The poem is so emblazoned on my brain that from time to time it comes to mind, most recently when I contemplate the BP oil spill, its damages, its consequences, and its handling.

I am writing from the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Conference, 55 days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 people and started an oil leak that apparently continues. While BP says that the leak was only 5000 barrels of oil a day, scientists estimate that between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels of oil leaked each day between April 22 until June 3. If you use the midpoint of 30,000 barrels and a period of 42 days (assuming all leaking stopped when a dome to catch some of the leak was installed on June 3), we are talking at least 1.2 million barrels of an oil leak.

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