Archive for June, 2010

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What do we want from our government, anyway?

June 25, 2010

by Sarah Michele Ford

This will probably be the final installment in this series of posts about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One major question that has been brought to the fore by the various responses to the disaster is, what do we want the role of the government to be? People booth sides of the debate have been making arguments in this regard. Those who favor smaller government (often, but not always, people who would be categorized as politically conservative) have argued that the government should not be involved, that the free market will take care of things (and presumably that BP will get it cleaned up in due time). Those who favor greater governmental involvement (more likely to be in the liberal end of the political spectrum) have argued that the government has not done enough both to prevent the spill and to aid in the cleanup efforts, whether that takes the form of doing e cleanup itself or forcing BP’s hand.

The Obama administration has responded to these two opposing forces in a number of different ways. They have said that BP is in charge of the cleanup, not least because the federal government simply does not have the equipment necessary to carry it out. At the same time, however, the President has made several tripos to the Gulf Coast to show that the administration cares and is involved.

  Most interesting, however, is the way that the American public has reacted to President Obama’s response to the disaster. Numerous people have said that he hasn’t been “angry enough”. In response to this, the President went on national TV and tried to make the point that he WAS fired up about the situation, that he knew “whose ass to kick”. The question that this makes me ask, though, is what exactly do we want from our President in a situation like this?

What SHOULD be the government’s role be in a man made disaster of this sort? And what is the appropriate role for the nation’s leaders in such a situation?

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The Oil Spill and the Environment

June 12, 2010

by Sarah Michele Ford

Within the context of the BP oil spill, we can also begin to look at environmental sociology.  The question that environmental sociologists will as in reference to this event is, of course, how has the human activity of drilling impacted the environment of the Gulf Coast.  With this environmental catastrophe now well into its second month, it is affecting not just the waters and animals of the Gulf but the coastline as well.

Taking a step back, we can look at the larger sociological questions that the Gulf spill has brought to light.  When it comes down to it, society created the demand for oil that led to exploration and what turned out to be risky drilling activities.  How did we get to this point?  What social factors pushed us to the point that it became profitable for BP to extract oil from a mile below the ocean?

As much as sociology can help us understand how we got to the point of this disaster, it can also point the way forward.  Environmental sociology can help us understand what social changes will be necessary to reduce society’s impact on the environment.

What social changes do you think are necessary to preserve our environment?  Can those changes be made?