Louie Miller, director of the Mississippi state Sierra Club, had this to say about the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:
Unfortunately, the genie is out of the bottle with this oil spill, and I don’t think I’m overstating the case by saying this is America’s Chernobyl.
The incident certainly contains all the psychological triggers that human beings seem to required to get concerned about things. It is happening right now. It is visible. There are specific people to whom the disaster can be attributed.
It would certainly be nice to see an event that clarifies for people some of the many hidden costs associated with fossil fuel dependence. While fourteen years passed between the Chernobyl disaster and the shutdown of the last reactor at the Chernobyl site, the incident made people around the world acutely aware of the dangers associated with nuclear power.
It is slightly ironic, perhaps, that those environmentalists who joined the movement around the time of Chernobyl seem to be those that maintain a reflexive fear and distrust of nuclear energy. At the same time, environmentalists today who are overwhelmingly concerned with the threat from climate change seem much more likely to view nuclear power as part of the solution to our most pressing environmental problem.
Alternatively, rather than being ironic, perhaps this is just a sign of how our environmental problems are deepening and growing more threatening. What people worried about just twenty or thirty years ago now looks like small potatoes to us.
[Update: 2 May 2010] See also: Obama expands US offshore drilling