I don’t usually comment on current events in Noise to Signal, but I’m finding I can’t ignore the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

We can’t treat the world as though it’s simple enough for a Missing Manual… or even an O’Reilly In a Nutshell book. (Imagine having to pick just the one woodcut animal for the cover.) But we insist on doing just that… and assuming that the documentation, if it existed, would align neatly and conveniently with whatever our economic interests happened to be at the moment.

If I sound gloomy, I am. Reports that oil from the spill (my friend James Glave suggests “hemorrhage” is more accurate) has now entered the Loop Current are pretty alarming. And while I’m still pulling for BP to cap this thing, and for the damage to fall well short of a worst-case scenario, I have to wonder how many other Deepwater Horizons are out there – in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere – waiting to happen.

While conservatives in the U.S. have tried to label this catastrophe “Obama’s Katrina”, whereas the contrast between Bush’s callous and detached response to that catastrophe and the Obama administration’s engagement with this one couldn’t be more stark, there is one crucial parallel.

The Gulf of Mexico taught us with Hurricane Katrina that government has a critical responsibility to invest in infrastructure – and that failing to meet that responsibility results in massive devastation, death and suffering. This disaster teaches us that government has a critical responsibility to regulate for public safety and environmental protection – and that failing to meet that responsibility can unleash untold ecological and economic impact.