This was the image I stared at over the weekend. This was the image that stayed with me as I thought about all the ways that my family and I could keep the planet clean enough so that we could raise another generation on it. This is not a picture of Oompa Loompas stirring chocolate in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. These are community workers, wearing protective gear, cleaning a street flooded by toxic mud in the village of Kolontar, Hungary. The sludge continues to threaten the town as a hole fifty yards wide has been blocked, but cracks around the rest of the retaining wall show cracks and signs of giving way. Residents of Kolontar, accent on the "tar," have been evacuated, while the folks just up the road have been told to pack a bag "just in case."
Just in case the goop continues to creep down their streets and toward their houses. Just in case this ugly incident keeps getting uglier. For the record, the company responsible, the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Company, has apologized for their participation in the mess. The mess that includes seven deaths and one hundred and fifty injured, with three still missing somewhere in all that muck. The company says they are willing to pay compensation "in proportion to its responsibility" for the damage caused by the deluge. As the slop has already painted the Blue Danube red, and threatened countless flora and fauna in the region, one might wonder why that percentage wouldn't be one hundred percent. And then there's the fact that the head of the company has been detained by local police. Are you listening, British Petroleum?
There's not a lot of naturally occurring instances of bauxite being refined into alumina, but we can expect that corporate lawyers will be working as hard as the folks in this picture to keep the gunk from sticking to them. Something Oompa Loompas would never do.