MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - It is hard to get out of a gilded cage, and that's what we Americans live in when it comes to fossil fuels. We like the cheap food and transportation that fossil fuels provide, and we take for granted the availability of inexpensive products made of plastics and other oil-derivatives. We can't imagine living without comfort and convenience, and so all too often we prefer to see only the glitter, not the bars.
But for many people in the world, the hard iron is all too visible. This discrepancy between what we see and what others see is the subject of Julia Baird's recent essay in Newsweek, "Oil's Shame in Africa." Baird quotes CUNY School of Law professor Rebecca Bratspies: "Problems associated with oil production are usually invisible to those of us who consume vast quantities. We don't see how dirty it is. [The recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico] is a more extreme version of daily events in Nigeria, where the oil companies have had a complete and total disregard for the environmental implications of their actions." According to Baird, what the Nigerians have gone through has not been deemed newsworthy in the West.