A Spill Afar: Should It Matter?
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
For the last month, Americans have watched with growing horror as a huge leak on a BP oil rig has poured millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As I wrote on Sunday in the Week in Review section of The Times, there is also shock that technology has so far not been able to control it.
But it is important to remember that this mammoth polluting event, so extraordinary here, is not so unusual in some parts of the world. In an article published Sunday in The Guardian of London, John Vidal, the paper’s environment editor, movingly recalls a trip to the Niger Delta a few years ago, where he literally swam in “pools of light Nigerian crude.”
I noticed today that Yahoo! News (yes, I know, not a very impressive source for news, but I still have an email account with them and visit their website daily) had a link to Poke’s Global Rich List:
This list will tell you just how rich you are compared to the rest of the world. Most Americans are easily within the top 10%. If you have an income of $50,000 or so, you are easily within the top 1%. They use World Bank data to source their numbers. Now, there are a number of problems with their methodology. It doesn’t, for instance, take into account relative purchasing power ($50,000 would buy me a lot more in Ghana than it does in the US). But it does remind me of a great article I often have my students read, one that was introduced to me by Amy Gurowtiz at UC Berkeley.
Peter Singer’s “Solution to World Poverty”, which appeared in the New York Times Magazine over a decade ago, presents a fantastic version of a cosmopolitan argument for our individual responsibility towards others in the word.
There are alternative views on individual and collective responsibility, and I won’t relate them all here. But I offer these today as interesting food for thought.
And if you do feel inspired to donate something somewhere, I might suggest that the Kibera School for Girls, a project founded by Wesleyan students I have had the privilege to teach, might be a good place to start.
One thing I never quite understand is why African Studies Association meetings are held in hotels where the nightly rate is close to half the annual income of the average African.
But there may be one more reason to be concerned about the location of next year’s ASA location. As the video below suggests, a number of hotels are in trouble with local unions. Now, I must plead a degree of ignorance about the real issues at stake, and about how labor conditions compare between San Francisco’s hotels and those of other cities. But I also find it very interesting that the video below was shot at this year’s conference hotel.
Thanks to Jennifer Bussell for the link!