“I’ve had more than a few people express intense psychological distress about the BP oil eruption in the Gulf of Mexico – and I live in the American Midwest, about a thousand miles from any physical hardship caused by the accident. Few times since 9/11 has a news event reverberated this profoundly in the minds of people who weren’t directly affected by it.
I think this mostly has to do with the fact that the story won’t go away. We live in a 60-second news cycle, in which most stories aren’t expected to last much longer than a tweet. No matter how horrible the details, the media always moves on.
This oil story is literally spreading. It won’t go away, and each failed attempt to plug the spewing well at the bottom of the gulf only heightens our existential anxiety. We even watch a live feed from an underwater rover at the site of the spill and wonder, “What if it can’t be fixed?””
I felt like this during 9/11 too. As removed as I was from it, I couldn’t ignore that it hit home. It felt like a way up call of mega proportions. We don’t like problems we can’t fix. We’re the “can do” country. And now we’re on the world stage floundering in our own mess.
I can’t help but recognize that as much as I don’t like these things, they do have an upside. They humble us. They make us think. They force us to set down our pride and recognize the problem. Problems like this force us to confront our addiction to oil.
If you haven’t seen this, plug in your zip code to get a perspective of how massive this problem is.