PAT LaMARCHE

Deepwater Horizon parallels Chernobyl

Posted April 19, 2011, at 9:06 p.m.
Last modified April 21, 2011, at 9:47 a.m.

Today is the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

But that’s not all. What happened in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago is merely the mushroom cloud over the meltdown of what that event actually means for our future; especially when you put it into perspective with what happened 25 years ago next Tuesday.

On April 26, 1986, there was a nasty ecological calamity that was a result of flawed design, shortcuts in construction and ineffective personnel. Workers were killed in the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power facility, just as they were on BP’s oil rig, while even more people died or were made ill by environmental toxins spewed into the environment.

Similarly, both governments that allowed the disaster to happen in the first place — by not safeguarding the public welfare — told cleanup crews everything was safe and even more people got sick.

The similarities between these two disasters are astounding. Secrecy, coverups, corner-cutting. According to Time magazine, the bad press the Soviets got for their handling of the Chernobyl disaster shook public confidence both inside and outside the country. “Other nations have severely criticized the Soviets for first concealing the disaster from the world and then providing scant information. Many Soviet citizens are also resentful because they were not warned of the danger until more than a week after the accident.”

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about BP’s Chernobyl-like botching of the explosion, you can visit the Wall Street Journal business section and read reports from just days after the Horizon spill. And as for people still getting sick — especially children — check out the Huffington Post for an extensive series of articles beginning in May of last year and running through yesterday.

Chernobyl was in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. You remember that place, part of a once-great and powerful nation that together with the allied forces won World War II for the good guys. Sadly, their country hastened toward decline when the needs of the people became less important than the USSR’s goals of world domination and supreme military might.

I wish I could say that these avoidable environmental disasters were the only commonalities we share with the USSR in the few years leading up to their decline. But the Soviets’ unfavorable balance of trade as they imported more and more of their goods — especially wheat from the U.S. —  made them beholden to countries who longed for their destruction.

As the Soviet Union grew more weak, its central government began to give way and dismantle itself, increasing responsibility for daily governance on ill-equipped and poorly run member states. Lax regulation of special interests, coupled with their national identity as world bully, caused them to neglect priorities at home.

Take a minute and visit our own CIA website and you can read all about the foolhardy behaviors that precipitated the collapse of the 20th century’s only other super power.

In addition to robbing their children of adequate educations and their communities of infrastructure investments, Soviet leadership justified their expanded military expenditures with wasteful and fruitless wars like the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has fallen into every pitfall that hastened the end of the USSR.

Our quality of life isn’t evidence of a great democracy. The ever-increasing number of poor people and our treasury’s busting military expenditures make our way of life look less and less enviable to the developed world, where a person’s necessities — like access to health care — are not in question.

Here, from the Department of Homeland Security, proof that we even share the Soviet’s paranoia, which created the Berlin Wall, “Section 102 of the Secure Fence Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to construct — in the most expeditious manner possible — the infrastructure necessary to deter and prevent illegal entry on our Southwest Border, including pedestrian and vehicle fencing, roads and technology.”

If the coincidental anniversaries of Chernobyl and the gulf oil spill don’t awaken us to the reality of our decline, I don’t know what it’ll take.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@ hotmail.com.

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