Oil on the Water, Blood on the Land
Opinion by M. Ellis | November 10, 2007
Few places on earth have majesty or beauty to compare with what the people of
West Marin see every day from the windows of their dwellings in Point Reyes,
Inverness, Bolinas, Tomales, and Olema. The soul is uplifted, the eye is
wonderfully refreshed by even a few moments' contemplation of local scenery.
We are blessed to be living in a place that more than a million outsiders
journey to every year in quest of peace and pleasure.
But now, it is November in West Marin and within the past few weeks, the
actions of a mere handful of human beings have invaded our precious home with
violence, deception, toxins, and death.
For just a moment, try to imagine yourself looking through the eyes of a
Supreme Being. Imagine looking down at the verdant Point Reyes peninsula in its
blue ocean setting, like a jewel on the map of the world. It is night, and most
of the human inhabitants are sleeping, but there are owls traversing the quiet
skies and the night animals are busy. While the local people sleep, armed gunmen
open silenced fire on the peninsula's most gentle beings - the Fallow and Axis
Deer families who have come to the meadows for food. The evil work is kept hidden
from any who would protect the deer; it is done under the cowardly cover of
darkness. But, you are the Supreme Being and no shadow is deep enough to hide an
infamous deed from your eyes. You see your splendid deer destroyed by a few
Turning your eyes in sorrow from the land, you look toward the San Francisco
Bay as the sun illuminates this corner of the little globe. You see a tremendous
ship crash into a tremendous bridge and begin spilling countless gallons of poison
into the life-filled waters. You hear the horror of your whales, migrating along
your coast. You see the sea lions foundering onto the beaches, stomachs and lungs
glutted with oil. You see your migratory birds landing in Bolinas Lagoon for their
winter rituals. They are so covered in toxic ooze, even your eyes can hardly
distinguish one species from another. How can the mistake of one single human
being have done this to all of the waters upon which all of your creations depend?
I pity the Creator, looking down on West Marin this November. For thousands of
years, He watched the Miwok peoples live in this paradise in exquisite relation
to the exquisite land and sea. In less than seven generations of industrial European
occupation, we have left our mark here in a way that numberless generations of
the region's traditional inhabitants could not have conceived of. Our belief in
conquest, official systems, and unlimited rights for moneyed men is what is responsible
for putting the kind of power into the hands of the few that is capable of
exterminating whole species and ruining the sea. A ship steered by one man has
spoiled the water for every living one of us. A company owned by one man is
responsible for the ever-rising total of deaths of the rare deer who dwell in our
hills. The balance of power is ludicrous.
This November, I must face that I am guilty of enabling the industries and
governmental systems that put oil in the water and blood on the land. My money
allows these things to happen. I see the beauty of West Marin. I know the feeling
in my heart for the creatures of this place. Yet, tomorrow I will drive my car,
pay my taxes, knowing painfully that my actions are responsible for this
destruction of my home. Like so many local people, I feel trapped in systems I
cannot seem to get out of. Even as I write my letters of protest, those few men
with the power to effect such vast harm must know that, as a Californian, an
American, I am funding the very outrages I claim to despise. It puts me in a
I have watched with esteem the efforts of other local people to demand that
the men in power take them into account. Nothing has come of this valiant effort.
I read the articles, watch the news, hear the talk, but the war goes on, the oil
keeps pumping, the deer are vanishing. I live in discomfort and conflict, desperately
wishing some Supreme Answer would arise that would show us all the value of our
world, that would fill our hearts with such abundant love that no man would ever
again pick up a gun or spread poison around himself. It is difficult to have hope
in November this year, but like many people, I will keep looking for the answer.