This is an essay I wrote in 2010 in response to the Gulf Coast Disaster and my environmental concerns. Read more of my writings from my author’s page at Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy), or by searching online for “Wayne T. Dowdy.” Though this essay is more critical and much different than most of other essays about my beliefs and life experiences, I included We Are the Cancer in Essays & More Straight from the Pen because of the seriousness of the topic. I hope you enjoy it and find something meaningful in the words I write.
WE ARE THE CANCER
Wayne T. Dowdy
Innumerable oil particles gushed into the emerald green waters of the Gulf Coast, after the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig catastrophe on April 20, 2010, where eleven men lost their lives working to extract oil from the bottom of the ocean for British Petroleum (BP). The tiny particles arrived in masses to penetrate the shores and seep into the marshes, killing living organisms along the way and upon arrival. Waves of the slippery substance overcome marine life, reptiles, amphibians, and mammal alike, by either depleting their oxygen supply, poisoning their systems, or causing them to die from malnutrition by poisoning their food supply. Some of the life forms that the oil didn’t kill, the Corexit did (Corexit is the chemical dispersant that BP used to hide oil beneath the surface).
In David Quammen’s essay, “Contagious Cancer – the Evolution of a Killer,” Harper’s Magazine, April 2008, he wrote about a “parasitic cancer” killing Australia’s Tasmanian Devils (cancer spreads through bites incurred during battles and mating rituals–the process for creating life ends it by spreading cancer). He defined parasites as “[a]ny organism that lives on or within another kind of organism, extracting benefit for itself and causing harm to the other.” And then on cancer, “Cancer differs also from heart disease and cirrhosis and the other lethal forms of physiological breakdown; uncontrolled reproduction, not organ dilapidation, is the problem.” Cancer cells divide and replicate until their mass overcomes their host.
We humans are the parasitic cancer of the Universe: not a pleasant thought or concept to endure, but the facts support my hypothesis. With Earth hosting the human organism, it is our rapid reproduction, along with our desires to prosper and enjoy the luxuries and comforts of life that results in damage to our host. Our rapid replication creates the need for more oil and other natural resources, which leads to our robbing Mother Earth of what we need to be pleased. On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, AK. It lost 10,080,000 gallons of oil that devastated the marine and wildlife of the affected areas in Alaska. If the Earth was human, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill an injury, the injury would have been akin to a slashed finger that leaked a little blood compared to the Gulf Coast Disaster. The Gulf Coast Disaster, caused by BP’s failure to adhere to safety standards, was more like a freshly amputated limb that gushed blood for months. Estimates of the amount of oil spilled have varied, and with tactics used that appeared to obstruct the measureable amount of oil, who knows how much oil flooded those emerald green waters. The long-term effect on the environment is yet to be seen: predictions are not very promising; devastation to coastal life; more deaths and reduced births of wildlife; damage or death to the deepwater corals, crustaceans, snails, bacterial filaments, and tubeworms in the deep Gulf of Mexico waters, which may affect those further up the food chain. The disaster upset the Earth’s delicate balance of life.
Oil extraction and related accidents are only one example of humans “extracting benefits for [themselves] and causing harm to [earth].” The by-products resulting from processed oil is another example: Green House Gas Effects, water and air pollution, and the destruction of natural resources by companies driven by corporate greed, which capitalize on human desires at the expense of the environment. According to Woody Tash, Founder and Chairperson of the Slow Money Alliance, “[i]ndustrial agriculture is one of the most polluting activities on the planet.” [The Sun magazine, June 2010] The more we eat mass produced vegetables, commercially processed fish and meats, the more we assist in the contamination of the air and land by the spread of poisonous pesticides and toxic substances. It takes oil to operate the machinery and equipment (cultivation and transportation vehicles, pumps, generators, etc.).
To make the machinery, equipment, and a variety of apparatuses used for processing, storing, and transporting the goods generated to appease our needs and desires, is another matter; no less harmful to the environment because it divests the earth of natural resources, such as iron, copper, aluminum, and many other metals and minerals. Mining causes water and air pollution, soil erosion, and as often happens, the death of humans who must work for oppressive companies in order to survive. The same processes are required to appease our inquisitive side, which contributes to our damaging effect expanding into space: our space junk (satellites, rocket parts, and a variety of other things we leave behind) litters the Universe; exhaust emissions from space vehicles eat holes in the ozone layer, the same as all other exhaust emissions from carbon producing engines. Besides that, when humans remove all of those substances from the earth, especially oil, what becomes of the space previously occupied by those substances? It seems to me that it would have to affect something. Could that possibly increase the risk of earth quakes? In my unprofessional opinion, I say it does, even though I am far from a specialist in the field.
As the oil escaped Mother Earth, I wonder if BP officials were more concerned about the loss of profits, or about the “Little People” (as I seem to recall one BP official referring to those who do the jobs necessary to get the oil from the ground), who lost their lives while generating profits for them. From what I understand, Oil companies are fined based upon the amount of oil that escapes from accidents, and the estimated cost of cleaning up the damage caused by the accident. Maybe that explains why BP officials used the Corexit in the Gulf of Mexico to sink the oil, with no regard for the marine life and environment. The experience with Corexit at the Exxon Valdez oil spill had provided evidence of its damaging effect on life forms and the environment. If not for wanting to protect profits, why else would BP officials have ordered tons of Corexit to be spread over the Gulf Coast to sink the mass of oil seeping to the surface from the manmade hole in the ocean floor, which resulted from the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig? Let us hope that the eleven lives lost were not in vain. Maybe their sacrifices will lead to changes that will prevent reoccurrences of such catastrophes, and lessen our damaging effect on the environment.
Perhaps we will go into voluntary remission before we annihilate ourselves by critically damaging our host in our struggle to survive and enjoy life. For those fortunate enough to do so, maybe we can walk or cycle more instead of driving vehicles; eat less commercially produced food; buy more locally produced products, and grow more food in gardens; live modestly on necessities, instead of lavishly on luxuries. Mother Earth may bless us and our future generations with longer life spans and better health. Our grandchildren and their children may one day thank us.
[Since I wrote the original version of this essay, the movie AVATAR came out and became my favorite, even though I do not watch a lot of movies these days, especially those from the fantasy category. (I have watched AVATAR several times because I love the visual effects, the characters, and the correlation between its plot and what happened with the early European settlers and Native Americans.) One of the things I really liked was when the Marine in the AVATAR body prayed to the Tree of Souls and asked for help. The Tree of Souls was a spiritual source for the natives because it connected them with their ancestors. As the pending battle loomed on with the alien invaders, he said something like, “They killed their planet and they will kill this one, too.” In the end, Mother sent all of the creatures to help defend their planet from the alien invaders, who came to take one of their natural resources-a precious metal, located under their Mother Tree, which is where many natives had lived before the aliens blasted it with missles to destroy it. Essentially, the alien invaders made the natives their enemy to justify killing or massacring all life forms to take the precious metal they wanted, much as we have done to others, because we are the cancer.]
1) Special thanks to David Quammen and Harper’s Magazine for allowing me to use the quotes from “Contagious Cancer – the Evolution of a Killer,” copyright 2008 by Harper’s Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduced for the April issue by special permission.
2) The Sun magazine, and Woody Tash of the Slow Money Alliance, for more insight.
3) Julie Whitty, Environment Correspondent, Mother Jones, September/October 2010, in writing the informative “BP’s Deep Secrets.”
4) Tom Junod, Esquire, September 2010, in writing “11 Lives,” for giving a face to the eleven men who died on April 20, 2010, aboard the Deepwater Horizon: Donald Clark, Gordon Jones, Adam Weise, Roy Kemp, Dewey Revette, Jason Anderson, Blair Manuel, Shane Roshto, Stephen Curtis, Dale Burkeen, and Karl Kleepinger.