Ever since the massive explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig and the ensuing oil spill that began almost two months ago, I have spent nearly all of my professional time and energy on reading, writing and researching the BP response and serious problems with transparency; the government response and the media's enthusiasm to blame President Obama, and; the political consequences of the whole thing. At least that was the case until last Thursday, when I set foot on the grounds of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, and all of that worry and concern took a back seat to the 160+ musical acts and comedians, people-watching of 75,000 rabid music fans and, of course, the ever-present heat.
I needed the break. I think it really allowed me some time time to reflect on this mess and what it means not only in terms of energy and environmental politics, but what it means to the general public. What I realized during my break from thinking and talking about the massive oil spill and environmental catastrophe it is turning into was that virtually everyone else at the festival wanted the same thing. Yes, there were environmental organizations like Greenpeace and others set up in Planet Roo--the centerpiece of the festival's sustainability activity--talking to festival attendees about the oil spill and the political actions that can be taken to try and do something about it. And yes there were a few artists that raised awareness about the problems in the Gulf and the environmental and economic disaster building down there. But by and large it was out of everyone's minds. The question is, was it apathy or a much-needed respite?
When I did talk to other people about the oil spill and shared my own feelings about it, my speculation was confirmed. It was not a case of widespread apathy. People did care. And people were incredibly concerned. Everyone else had been thinking about the oil spill a lot too, but was relishing this excellent opportunity to get it out of their heads for a few days.
I think we all needed it. And if you have the chance to do something to clear your head and get the thoughts and images of the oil spill out of your head, I highly recommend it.
Now it's time to get back to work.
Photos: Richard Allen