Don't Call It a Spill

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At my grandson's school, the 4th graders discussed the news from the Gulf, then just weeks old.  My 10-year-old grandson asked, "Why do they call it an oil 'spill'? That sounds like when you tip your glass of milk over. This sounds much, much worse."

It's a good question, and a kid spotted the euphemism. Later, we tried better words: "gusher, explosion, catastrophe." Now, with images of pelicans and other sad creatures smothered in tarry petroleum, struggling to move, we know how catastrophic that blowout is, and those words are being used, along with "disaster."

But many still call it the "spill."

Words matter, any advertiser can tell you that, and we've come to accept the spin machine: Banks want to help you with your house; drug companies test for safety; big energy companies care about the environment.

It's clear that industry never had a plan for how to handle the failure of equipment at such extreme depths. As each week brings a new measure desperately flung at the problem, the variety of ideas floated out there shows nobody knows what to do. Burn it, nuke it, blow it up, disperse it, capture it, relieve it .... anything that sounds like it might stop it.


Reckless and irresponsible  come to mind.  So do "criminals" and "perpetrators", "whitewash" or "deal" as in any drug deal, arms deal or business scam -- make a  buck and to hell with the consequences for anybody (or any creature) not on the pipeline of payouts.

BP continues to advertise, and rake in the profits, and the massive problem persists, the ecosystem disaster worsens, more lives are devastated and the public policies that permitted it to happen go unchanged. 

Words can't capture the outrage. At the very least, though, could we stop using the word "spill"?

With a Perspective, I'm Beverly Hanly.