By Daniel de la Calle
A few months ago I broke a toenail after kicking a stone and reacted to the accident with what I thought was a quick brilliant idea: I would apply several layers of crazy glue to hold it together until it grew past the breaking point. Hysteria leaves no room to ponder the side effects of glue on open wounds, so I grabbed a tube and did my job until, layer after layer, I had the mother of all nails, an oyster-like looking big toenail that looked invincible and mighty and even withstood flexing. That initial repair was so successful that I began fantasizing about a possible crazy glue ad campaign that included commercials and made me rich.
Still, truth being more patient than dreams, quietly put things in place: less than a week after I thought I had made my great discovery I was struggling in a desperately slow race against the nail growth and its repeated cracks. My crazy glue helped, but did no miracles.
When the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began more than two months ago I promised myself I would not write about it. Such a horrendous catastrophe took over my thoughts and made me begin to measure time in spilled gallons, to go back again and again in my head to that deadly lava lamp at the bottom of the ocean, spreading its black ooze throughout the gulf, enveloping beaches, birds, fish, changing people’s lives. I did not want to talk about it because in all honesty I knew I had absolutely nothing to add to what all the knowledgeable and intelligent thinkers, scientists, journalists have already been writing. I do wonder, though, why all those words keep coming short over and over again when describing the way we are affecting the environment, why it is that they are not causing a resolute change. They have to be coming short, otherwise we would be taking real measures.
Now, at the end of June, billions of liters of oil have come out and the ongoing calamity is too great to even fathom. I fear we are even getting used to it, growing tired of the news. It will only be thirty or a hundred years from now that people will be able to look back upon the disaster and assess its magnitude, in just measure. I once read that the Gulf of Mexico could be where a giant meteor crashed against the Earth and caused the extinction of dinosaurs. Macabre coincidence. Having reached such a point this is too great a calamity for me not write a couple lines and at least leave a small trace of anger and disgust. Just sitting in front of my laptop here in Niquelandia (Brazil) makes me short of breath and my stomach feel rock solid. I read angry voices against BP and President Obama and find it so absurd to think in that direction. It is either ridiculous or a way to keep us distracted from what we know the real problem is and where to look for answers, culprits and solutions. Personally, I am surprised that nothing similar had happened before.
What do 480 millions liters (127 million gallons) look like anyway? How many football fields can you cover with that? How much energy is inside all that fuel? I cannot visualize it, it does not fit in my head.
The thing about my nail could be a metaphor to exemplify the best and worst in us. On the one hand, we have this ability to come up with quick ingenious solutions to unexpected problems and mishaps, on the other, we are so naive that when shit happens we also think that all we need to do is use a little crazy glue to fix it.
A picture I just took of the oil spill