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Monday, July 26, 2010

Red tape 2.0

I don’t mean to bug ya’, but one of the things we talked about on the Beancast this week had to do with the effectiveness of celebrity campaigns on relief efforts. I mentioned a story about Sean Penn in Haiti and his relief efforts he founded with, and how he seemed to be flying under the radar. CNN coverage is not under the radar of course, but with disasters, people tend to forget about them soon after the initial outcry. Then it’s apathy 2.0 until the next one happens.

With Penn, you might think great, another celebrity paying lip service, but he’s been living there soon after the earthquake hit and put up his own money to fund efforts. Say what you will but that’s more than I did, by far. He talks about something though facing a lot of NGOs in disaster areas that I heard in an old All Things Considered, in that there’s almost always a lack of central control that hampers efforts.*

That’s an earthquake though, and hard to predict in the way we can forecast a few days out as we do with a hurricane. Except there’s one key difference with relief efforts for oil spills or other man-made disasters: While we focus on the effects of the event after it happens, relief telethons and celebrity videos don’t address the root cause leading up to the event.

(Granted, it might be a stretch to say red tape plays a part in causing man-made disasters, but as the Gulf story has shown, it certainly plays a part in the clean-up effort.)

However, if I had to make that connection, the red tape here could be considered the issues of safety procedures, rushed deadlines and improperly operating equipment which seemed to have all played their part. If you wanna help clean up pelicans, fine. Just remember that there was a human toll: 11 rig workers and one fisherman in the subsequent clean-up.

More importantly, look at all ongoing drilling now and immediately recheck safety procedures. (BP is no friend of OSHA, and their sister rig Deepwater Nautilus is like your neighbor’s dog with a history of breaking free. They also want to start a new one off Libya.)

And we’re focused on t-shirts.

Too often you hear the phrase “so it never happens again” tacked on at the end of a story about a tragic event or disaster, but it’s government agencies and the companies themselves that can have the biggest impact on that statement—ahead of time.

*I can’t find the story now, but the point of the piece was that NGOs come in, do what they can, but then due to things beyond their control, get pulled out, leaving behind a critical shortage of doctors to help people.

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