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SPECIAL REPORT: Oil on the Beach : Meditations and Comments--a Compendium

February 11, 1990|Times staff writers Dana Parsons, Nancy Wride, Herman Wong, Jan Herman, Leslie Berkman, Cathy Curtis and Jonathan Weber contributed to this report

DR. ARNOLD O. BECKMAN: Scientist, philanthropist and founder of Beckman Instruments in Fullerton, lives in Corona del Mar.

I live on a bluff over the ocean in Corona del Mar just east of the Newport Harbor jetty. I looked down (Friday) morning and the oil hadn't gotten there yet. I'm apprehensive we may have a period here in which our shoreline will be spoiled. It is just too bad.

We have to do some heavy thinking to anticipate these things. There was a lot of talk before Valdez about the necessity of requiring double-hulled tankers. Let's not wait any more. This is something for Congress to address.

In the pharmaceutical industry, if a company develops a new drug, it has to apply to the Food and Drug Administration before it is marketed to see if the drug is effective at doing what it was designed for and if any side effects are harmful. We should apply that same two-sided test to everything that we do.

We should have a risk-benefit study of every major thing that we do, whether it is a proposal to build a nuclear power plant or another new highway through Orange County or hundreds of new low-cost housing units. We allow the vocal, single-issue people to dominate the scene. I am sitting in the office of the (Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of) the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering in Irvine. It is devoted to encouraging study groups on major issues. And that is the way decisions should be made. I think we don't make the extra effort to study all sides of an issue because, as a society, we have become too soft, too complacent. Life has become too comfortable.

ROBERT S. COHEN: Chairman of the drama department at the UC Irvine School of Fine Arts, author of eight books, lives in Laguna Beach.

Obviously, the tanker spill is a horror. I've been in Laguna Beach for 25 years, and this confirms our worst fears. We've been waiting for this to happen, just like the madwoman of Chaillot.

You know, the first great post-World War II play in France was "The Madwoman of Chaillot" by Jean Giraudoux. The "madwoman" of the title was an environmentalist. That's why they called her mad, because she believed that art and beauty and nature should have a higher value than technological progress.

What an ironic forecast Giraudoux gave us. The play is a fantasy about some men who discover oil under Paris, and they are trying to destroy the city in order to get the oil. Giraudoux called these people "mecs," which means pimps. At the end of the play, all the pimps are sent down to hell.

I guess we need a liberation from the technological pimps.

JAMES DOTI: Professor of economics at Chapman College, lives in Anaheim Hills but spends his summers in Newport Beach.

In any disaster, it's easy to overreact, and some perspective is necessary. We live in a complex economy, and these things will occur, trying as they are. We use oil and refined petroleum products, and we tend to take them for granted, not realizing the complex process it takes to bring these things to market.

I would hate to see an overreaction, some kind of ban on oil shipping, or refining, or drilling off-shore. Anything that is done to limit the transit, entry or exit points of these products will affect the cost. People have to realize the trade-off between a marginal increase in safety and higher prices. Economically, our dependance on foreign oil has increased significantly and that's a problem as well, though not as visible as an oil spill. When we go to fill up our tank we take it for granted and don't realize the complexity of the process behind it, and any restriction on this process raises prices. A decision needs to be made as to whether people are willing to pay that price. We have to keep that in perspective.

MAXINE O'CALLAGHAN: A writer of seven mystery novels, has lived in Mission Viejo since 1972.

I've been reading about the spill in the paper. The pictures of the birds are just heartbreaking. You have to wonder, even if they are able to corral all the oil with their little boats, how many blobs of that stuff are going to remain loose and floating around to foul all the beaches here?

I've already written about the environment in Orange County in "Hit and Run," my last Delilah West book. Only I used chemical spills, the midnight dumping of toxic chemicals, as a plot element in that one. I'm using county overdevelopment as an element in another book I'm writing now. This spill becomes one more fact of life that you bring up for your reader to show what's happening here. It gives a picture of the county, and not a very nice picture, to balance the palm trees and the beautiful weather.

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