Hairy Situation

The recent occurrence of disasters - both made by nature, affecting men and made by men, affecting nature - have been of great interest to me.

Don´t know why exactly. I´m basically a humanist. I´m interested in people. That´s why I love to meet new people and I work in portraiture. However, I don´t have very much faith in the goodness of The Crowd. The Crowd is especially worrisome these days as people in developed countries become increasingly divorced from the sources of the things that they need the most. Almost no one farms, they´re dependent on "just in time" tranportation systems for things like food. On the whole, no one walks or bikes very much. Of course, there are many more examples of this, but I´ve been thinking about this concept of separation. I´ve thought about this as The Crowd seems to accept the daily press releases delivered on the behalf of BP by the mainstream media. Oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, and I hear co-workers mumble about its affect on vacation planning. I´ll actually be going to the panhandle of Florida in a few weeks. I look forward to it. I´m not afraid of the effects of the oil as I´ll probably find myself standing on the beach, scanning the horizon to see if I can see anything. I´ve read in some places that the iron oxide laden oil resembles blood floating on the water. For a moment I wondered if that´s how the world will end.

In the Bible, during disasters / divine intervention / the End Times The Crowd always seems to be on the same page. They all seem to understand the situation that they find themselves in and they react to the plagues, the fires, the bugs, the illness at the same time. But the more I rack my brain, it seems that this assumption may be wrong. The stories detail the event, but the human effects are secondary. Well, during the events anyway. Thinking about the coagulated flow of oil sloughing out from the underwater epicenter, I imagine that if the world were to end then it may take a while to get everyone to comprehend it. In my mind, I could see someone not unlike myself. A person who doesn´t watch TV. They opt, instead, for occasionally checking their newsfeed. It´s a good way to gather information, but it´s rather lacking in terms of what the local weather will be like the next day.

The Individual may get up on a Monday morning, scramble to get dressed and make breakfast. They throw together a quick lunch and walk to their truck, their shoulder bag, lunch box, and gym bag cutting into their forearms as they carry a large excercise ball for their weekly ab class. This truck, for the sake of argument, needs the gas pedal pumped a few times before it will start. Trucks made in the early 80´s didn´t have fuel injection. That´s a point The Individual really didn´t appreciate until they started driving this truck. They set off for work and note the lack of traffic on the surface streets. That´s the good thing about this recession. When people started losing their jobs, they stopped driving in the mornings. Today seems a lot lighter than usual. Oh well. It´s probably some kind of holiday that other people observe but The Individual´s employer doesn´t.

The Indivdual arrives at work a few minutes early, but they´re annoyed to find no one is there. There are a few abandoned cars along the industrial parkway. A bit strange, especially considering they are stopped at abrupt angles, passenger doors thrown wide open, facing potential oncoming traffic. The Individual fishes around in their bag to retrieve cell phone. They think it´s best to call the staffing agency (that they still work for after almost two years.) They want to notify someone that they drove 40 minutes to work and the doors were locked. Perhaps The Company had finally gone under as everyone had suspected it would after the layoffs the year before. As The Individual begins to scroll through their contacts in the address book, they quickly compose a succinct announcment in their head. As The Individual presses send and sighs, the sun blinks and goes black. "Ah, shit. I should have called home first," The Individual immediately thinks as the ancient metal connecting the frame of the truck becomes visibly electrified and the phone´s screen seizes and falls blank.

That´s how I can imagine the end happening. Not everyone will get a memo in advance, I guess. And who among the forewarned would react in a constructive way?

This brings me back to separation from The Source. This event is so big that it´s hard to wrap one´s head around it. Very few people know how to access this oil beneath the seafloor. No one could do it alone even if they wanted. It´s so complicated that it takes waves of specialized teams for each step of the process. Once it is tapped, millions of gallons are supposed to flow in a controlled way to the top. The depth at which the drilling starts and then the depth beyond the seafloor to which companies drill is also hard for The Individual to comprehend. So The Individual gives this responsibility away. They hand off the responsibility of carrying out the work as well as planning it, observing it, enforcing rules which make it safe. This is compounded by the fact that BP appears to be spinning the numbers and information about the incident. Independent scientists estimate that the renegade wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf could be spewing up to 25,000 barrels a day. If chokeholds on the riser pipe break down further, up to 50,000 barrels a day could be released, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration memo obtained by the Mobile, Ala., Press-Register. The oil released is now the size of Jamaica and swirling like an underwater hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP had permits to drill to about 20,000 feet, but there are indications that they went below 22,000 feet. Who knows what they have unleashed. This volcano of oil could have far reaching effects which go far beyond damaging fragile ecosystems lining the Gulf of Mexico. It may not be crazy at this point to speculate about the effect this event may have on the world´s oceans.

Faced with this level of uncertainty, many groups have been moved to action. A fan of creative problem-solving, I was very excited to see the proposal made by the San Francisco based group, Matter of Trust.Matter of Trust makes mats and "booms" comprised of human and animal hair.

The AH-HA! moment for making these mats and booms (usually pantyhose or netted tubes filled with hair) was when someone realized that we shampoo because our hair collects oil.

The great thing about making these booms is that they are easy to construct. Children and students often help to make them. What´s more is thatMatter of Trust is working to bring green jobs to their community. At the moment the absorbant mats made from recycled yarn and hair are woven in China, butMatter of Trust hopes to bring the facility to the US and encourage the growth of green jobs in their community.

Not only that, but the need for these mats and booms along with the simplicity of the materials involved may even spur growth in the textile industry in the US. Growing up in the south it´s always been a bit sad to drive through and see once thriving textile communities. Seeing the photos of of the warehouses filling with hair clippings and recycled yarn makes it definitely seem possible. Please consider donating. I have collected a bunch of hair from brushes and the velcro rollers I occasonally use to tame my curly hair. Hopefully I can get that in the mail soon.