Petrochemical dream or nightmare?

So we took the grandchildren to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which we’d much enjoyed in previous years, particularly to see the new Wiess Energy Hall.

What a spectacular set of exhibits this provides, summarising all you might know or wish to know about the oil and petrochemical industries. Many working models and explanations keep young and old engaged and interested for hours. What a monument to the wonderful creative spirit that has engaged humanity for a century and mostly created the modern world, with its variety of fuels, chemicals, plastics…

If you want to know about different types of oil rigs, the fracking revolution, oil pipelines, and much more, this is the place to go. Maps show the incredible scales of operations in the US.

There are even sections on nuclear power and renewable energy sources, albeit at a lower level than the obviously dominant petrochemicals.

Sadly, there are things it does not tell you, issues it does not address – like how this petrochemical dream is running into the buffers.

It does not tell you about the global warming and climate change that is being caused, nor of the suppression of knowledge of this by those who first knew – the oil industry.

It does not tell you how the land and sea are becoming increasingly polluted with all those plastics, not to mention the regular oil spillages, escaping methane, frack-caused earthquakes,…

It does not tell you how the very soil we grow our crops on is being denatured by those chemical fertilisers.

It does not tell how insects, birds, vegetation, mammals, fish are all being depleted, species destroyed at an alarming rate as the chemicals and plastics spread around the environment and the industrial scale enabled destroys the intimate spaces of nature.

It does not tell how human populations have been subjugated and their politics subverted by the imperative for this energy.

It does not tell how the earth cries out at this painfully rapid change, and is harnessing its resources for survival, ensured by its wonderful yet frightful variability – the heatwaves, coldwaves, biblical rainfalls and fires and floods, hurricanes, typhoons, thunders and lightnings…

In short, like most human endeavours, this industry’s continued prevalence contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction, which it resists to the death throes. But why would all those so-generous oil industry related sponsors of this exhibition in the oil capital wish to tell that story?

Featured image shows one of the exhibits: “Energy City,” a 2,500-square-foot 3-D landscape representing Houston, the surrounding Gulf coastal waters and the terrain of southeast and central Texas, aiming to bring to life the energy value chain.

Disgusting rubbish

cullen park rubbish point“Whoever did that it’s disgusting.”

 6-year-old grandaughter was quite clear about what she felt about the rubbish we came across in an otherwise rather attractive area in Cullen Park, Houston.

A stream winds its way through tangled woodland; along the bank a worn path follows the meanders, ideal for young explorations. But then we came across odd plastic bottles and other rubbish, which had accumulated in one particular area, probably as a result of earlier flooding.

cullen park rubbishHer reaction shows the world view at age 6. The beautiful world she is exploring despoiled by human action in leaving rubbish around. Due to the possible effects of flooding it is not clear that the rubbish was actually put in that place, but it seems pretty sure that it was deposited somewhere it should not have been,

This is not particularly a US problem. In Europe you frequently see rubbish that has been left in parks, on verges, thrown out of car windows, fly-tipped, and so on. Some countries are worse than others, but this is not the place to name names.

The situation at sea is perhaps worse. The accumulation of plastic rubbish in the Pacific Ocean is of legendary proportions – the great pacific garbage patch. Many fish and seabirds now have small particles of plastic in their gut as a result. Many die. All of that rubbish was caused to go into the sea by some deckhand, some person in authority, some private individual etc.  The problem of human rubbish is just enormous.

Plastic rubbish lasts so long in the environment that this is a problem for my grandchild’s generation that is getting worse and worse. Why are we not all fired by that same reaction? It is disgusting.

Her last words on the subject show the total unacceptability of what we and our governments appear to accept as unavoidable:

“I’m not happy with the people who did that”.

It is just not acceptable. All rubbish needs to be recycled.