The Exxon Valdez disaster occurred while I was a senior in high school. It was a terrible natural catastrophe. My mother was vehemently pissed about it. She wrote a letter to the editor of the San Jose Mercury News, which was printed. In it, she eloquently and passionately lambasted Exxon, in part of course because of their indirect negligence in the accident itself, but mostly because as a corporation, they immediately went on the defensive, absolving themselves from (fiscal) responsibility. This ticked my mom off to no end. It ticked me off too. But my mom did something about it. She enlisted a few of my high school friends, as well as myself, to take to the streets of Cupertino with petitions calling for the government to hold Exxon accountable. We had moderate success, I think, but in the end, nobody really listened, or really cared that much.
I haven’t thought back to those days, from 1989, for a long time. But then I saw this article in the New York Times, and it made me sad. After almost 20 years, I don’t think we as a collective society are committed enough to “doing the right thing.” It’s one of those things that is hard to describe, and almost impossible to legislate. But I know and love it when I see it.