Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Stages of Oil Grief

It's becoming apparent that the BP oil catastrophe, for lovers of Pensacola Beach, among others, is going to be like a death in the family. As the smells and the toxins come ever closer, each of us is likely to experience something very much like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' "stages of grief" as first outlined in her book On Death and Dying.

A common representation of her ideas boils things down to this graphic, showing shock and denial... anger... depression.... bargaining... and acceptance:

One could quibble over the number and the exact nature of each of these stages, but the basic idea resonates with almost everyone who has lost a loved one.

Last night, to judge from his late-night blog post, the estimable Rick Outzen of Pensacola's Independent News leaped way ahead of most of us in the Pensacola Beach grieving process. Most people in Pensacola are still in denial or they're mad as hell. Rick already is plunging into feelings of depression and hopelessness:
We aren’t supposed to win. British Petroleum is a global oil company, which made $5.6 billion the first three months of 2010. We are a community recovering from three hurricanes, a depressed real estate market and national recession. I am the publisher of a weekly newspaper and creator of a little blog.
* * *
BP will buy people off. They will run ads convincing us that all is fine. They will pay a bunch of $5000 claims, settle with the federal and state governments and continue to make billions every month. They will blame our claims and the cost of cleanup for “making” them raise the price of gas at the pump. Greedy Pensacola will pay for its claims at each fill-up.

We can’t win.

There's more, along the same lines. But his post was (as he confesses) written in the lonely hours after midnight.

Not to sound like an insipid neighbor trying glibly to help him buck up, but Rick Outzen has been doing a tremendous job sitting by the bedside of a desperately ill Gulf of Mexico. And he's been doing it for a very long time, often running extremely good and sometimes prescient articles in the Independent News calling attention to pollution of our waters and the indifference or outright hostility to the environment manifested by the voting records of too many of our elected leaders.

Lately, he's also become a regular contributor to The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast is an innovative and important news web site who writers often are guests on the razor-sharp, informative, and entertaining Rachel Maddow Show and Keith Olbermann's Countdown . Rick recently has been among them, too.

Kübler-Ross suggests that in circumstances such as we have now, friends and relatives should let those who grieve "talk, cry, or scream, if necessary. Let them share and ventilate, but be available."

You can be available for Rick by checking out his collected Daily Beast articles right here.

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