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Adele Elliott: Bitter tears


Adele Elliott



"''If seven maids with seven mops 


Swept it for half a year, 


Do you suppose,'' the Walrus said, 


''That they could get it clear?'' 


''I doubt it,'' said the Carpenter, 


And shed a bitter tear." 


When Lewis Carroll wrote "The Walrus and the Carpenter" in 1865, this stanza was referring to "great quantities of sand." He could not have known how many bitter tears would be shed over beach cleanup. 


Today, the Gulf of Mexico is a toxic soup of oil. Effects of the explosion of the rig, Deepwater Horizon, will be felt for a very long time, possibly forever. The wetlands of Louisiana are already damaged. Entire populations of birds, fish, otters and plant life all are in jeopardy. Humans, too, such as fishermen and trappers, will most likely be harmed. The destruction is unimaginable. And, it is expanding. Mississippi is next, then Florida. 


There will be lawsuits and retribution to pay. All for naught, I fear. Oil is like an escaped genie. Once released, neither can be forced back into its container. This damage is unfixable. A zillion dollars and all the maids in the world cannot undo the death of an environment. 


Of course, the BP Corp. is mainly responsible. It''s simple to blame the oil company. Heaven knows, they deserve it. But, in some ways, we all bear a bit of the guilt. America is hooked on oil. It is our drug, just as junk food and reality TV are. Oil companies are only the suppliers. We are the junkies. 


We need new sources of fuel, now. They are available but perhaps inconvenient for some, especially those profiting from the sale of fossil fuels. 


In a number of ways, it is too late. Too late to go cold turkey, too late for the Gulf Coast. We have waited until globs of slimy oil are creeping onto the beaches along our coast. Seafood is disappearing, swimming will soon be impossible. Perhaps there is time to save our other coasts. Why haven''t we started? 


In the Lewis Carroll poem, the Walrus and Carpenter lured all the oysters out of the ocean and ate them. They seemed surprised, and a bit sad, to realize that the oysters were gone. I suppose that we are somewhat like them. We cavalierly squander resources, thinking only of instant gratification, and are then shocked to discover that there is nothing left. 


The Walrus and Carpenter "wept like anything," as they walked along the shore. "If this were only cleared away," they said, "it would be grand." Amen. It would be grand. 


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. E-mail reaches her at [email protected]


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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