The Way We Treat Ourselves: Reflections on the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Note: This post is part of a series of blog entries by members of After the Spill, a faith-based group formed in response to the April 2010 Gulf oil spill.

During Holy Week, we experience the climax of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. This year, we remember the anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and Gulf of Mexico oil spill on Wednesday of Holy Week and Earth Day on Good Friday.

Last week, FAN volunteer Br. Jeff Wilson, TOR and members Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF (Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia) and Susan Burns (in formation with the Secular Franciscan Order) joined FAN staff member Christy Elliott to meet and learn from Cherri Foytlin and Drew Landry, who walked from Louisiana to Washington, DC, as part of a “Road to Washington” journey to raise awareness about the ongoing effects of the oil spill, including health problems. Drew explained that the trip had been a “spiritual journey” for the group and compared someone chained to a tree or gas pump to someone arrested outside an abortion clinic, citing the “same passion for life” which motivates efforts to protect. Expressing a desire to bring those committed to life together, Drew asked, “How do we make human life, or any life, more important than profit?”

FAN volunteer Bro. Jeffrey Wilson, TOR reflects on the oil spill anniversary during Holy Week in light of the Franciscan Tradition and Scripture.

Having been born and raised on the Florida Gulf Coast, I was especially troubled by the disaster. Despite the overall ecological impact of the oil spill, it is very important to remember that eleven people lost their lives from the explosion and their families and loved ones will carry their loss for the rest of their lives. What is most tragic is that the loss of human life and negative impact on the Gulf ecology appears to be the result of sheer negligence and mismanagement on the part of BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and federal industry regulators. There is mounting evidence that the companies involved put short term profits over the safety and lives of workers and of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

The worst thing that we can do is not learn from this experience; and learn especially that there is an interconnected relationship between humanity and the natural environment. Concerning this relationship, Pope Benedict XVI explains, “The way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa.”

The brutality we show towards one another is reflected in our brutality against the natural environment as we destroy forests, level mountaintops, drain estuaries, and erase barrier sand reefs in our quest for modern progress. In the short-sightedness of our “buy now, pay later” culture, we exchange moderation and sustainability for luxury, extravagance, and excess while we spend money that we do not have and increase our personal debt. This consumption mindset translates into the use and hoarding of the world’s natural resources without regard for our own future, let alone the needs of future generations. Our culture values ease of use and disposability. We throw away an estimated 60 million plastic water bottles each day. Likewise, we view human life as disposable and throw-away: the U.S. aborts over 800,000 babies and disposes of an estimated 8,000 human embryos each year.

Francis showed charity and concern for both humans and creatures. He called all creatures by the name of brother and sister and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to all creation: people, animals, and plants. This is a virtue that Francis came to develop over time. After all, metanoia, the conversion of heart, is an ongoing, lifelong process. The fruits of Francis’ conversion of heart and mind are manifested in his actions.

The one year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster falls on the Wednesday of Holy Week. I find the opening verses from the day’s first reading very appropriate, “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back” (Is 50:4-5). As we end our Lenten journey, let us be mindful of our transgressions against our brothers and sisters, both human and creature. As we remember the Passion of our Lord, let us commit ourselves to the ongoing conversion of our hearts and minds. And as we enter into the Easter Season, may we be renewed in the power of Jesus’ resurrection as we work to cure the wounded, to bind up the broken, and to recall the erring.

I would like to close my reflection with a prayer for the eleven workers who died on the Deepwater Horizon, April 20, 2010, and for the consolation of their families and loved ones:

Almighty and Good God, our faith in the resurrection of Jesus comforts us as we mourn the death of Jason Anderson, Aaron Dale Burkeen, Donald Clark, Stephen Curtis, Gordon Jones, Roy Wyatt Kemp, Karl Dale Kleppinger, Jr., Blair Manuel, Dewey Revette, Shane Roshto, and Adam Weise. May this passage be a reminder to us of our own mortality. Let it be a source of hope for us as we look forward to the day when we will be united with you and all your holy ones in the joy of eternal life. We ask this through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Read Bro. Jeff’s complete reflection, including citations, on FAN’s website.

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Published in: on April 21, 2011 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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