The BP Macondo oil well that ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, was capped on August 5, 2010, after five million barrels of crude were added to the waters of the gulf, fouling 632 miles of Gulf beach, including parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. This oil spill, the largest oil leak in our history, will have an incalculable impact on the indigenous animal life, including the humans that populate the region or attempted to take a vacation in the area during the malevolent, visible violence of the oil surge. But, what our mainstream press want us to believe is “out of sight, out of mind,” which doesn’t actually work when you live in the region and try to make a living from the traditional mode of fishing and shrimping. According to the reports we hear, the oil is gone now thanks to the cleanup crews and the dispersant Corexit, which was liberally applied both deep, at the site of the oil leak, and on the surface. Writer Terry Tempest Williams spent time, beginning July 28, 2010 visiting the region, particularly Louisiana, which was hardest hit by the continuous movement of oil from the site of its release. Williams has written a searing piece in Orion Magazine describing her own experiences in the region and how she and her small crew got contaminated and had to go through detox process. Her article is entitled “The Gulf Between Us.” It is a passionate and well written account of her experiences and views as an environmentalist and activist. The reason we don’t hear more stories about the downside of the Gulf is that BP demands a confidentiality agreement from everyone they compensate, and since just about everyone in the region was affected in one way or another, there is a wide, effective gag order imposed on the very people that have to continue trying to make a living in a region damaged in ways that we may never understand. Yet these are the people that know most about the impact of the spill and Williams gives them voice in her article.
So, if we wanted to conduct an experiment on the environmental impact of a major oil spill–now is our chance. But BP is attempting to silence the scientists who are examining the impact of the spill, as I wrote earlier. Whatever we have done to the ecology of the region will not be known for decades and many issues will probably never be fully understood. Right now, thanks to the use of Corexit, there is a layer of oil on the bottom of the Gulf, the magnitude and distribution of which is presently unknown: I seriously doubt there is any method that can measure it. But that is the area where many fish breed (including some species of blue fin tuna), so the future of fish that spawn in the gulf is unknown and since the number of fish caught is rapidly diminishing world wide (virtually all Atlantic salmon that we buy in the store is farmed fish), it will be hard to pin any change in fish numbers on the Gulf oil spill of 2010. Not entirely unrelated is how we destroyed the cod fishing in the North Atlantic: once fishing trawlers came along that could reach with their nets down to the bottom of the ocean, the cod started to disappear because that’s where the big cod go down to breed and where the newly hatched cod stay to grow. So, while cod was once considered to be an inexhaustible source of seafood, and built the early economy of New England, the major cod fisheries have been closed since the early 1990s. Will oil on the bottom of the gulf achieve what the trawlers did to the cod fishing industry in the Atlantic? Williams’ article also reveals that many residents of the Gulf region have been tested for contamination and show up with elevated levels of benzene and cadmium. So, we haven’t just intoxicated the wild life of the region, we must also think about the long-term impact on humans. Williams adds another point that should spark instantaneous sobriety: the five million barrels of oil spilled into the gulf would have provided the United States with about four hours of our daily oil diet. It is government collusion with the oil industry that produces this kind of outcome, though many feel that BP is an outlier when it comes to safety issues. The PBS program FRONTLINE did a major documentary on the safety record of BP and its convoluted history. You can watch it here. I have also commented on BP and the Gulf oil spill in articles here and here.
Who can lead us out of this toxic quagmire of excessive, American-style capitalism that puts humans below profits and stock values over human safety and protection of the environment? It is as if our frontal lobes, the region of our brain where we stand the best chance of evoking some longitudinal thinking and perhaps realizing that we are on an unsustainable path–that region of the brain has died of the atrophy of disuse, especially by our government and its collusion with international corporate objectives. But, as the saying goes, “we have met the enemy and it is us.” If we demanded a change and forced refocus of our culture on a sustainable path, compatible with the environment and the other animals that live within it, we could change things beginning now. We are too late to avoid impact from global climate change and we are too late to avoid a rise in sea levels, but we are not too late to save the planet from an insurmountable catastrophe that lies in our path if we do nothing. If we should lose the Greenland, Antarctic and Arctic ice, the ocean levels will rise by about 70 meters, Florida will be completely underwater and the Mississippi River will drain into the Gulf at Tennessee. While the earlier projections did not foresee this kind of catastrophe during the 21st century, the ice is melting faster than we thought, by mechanisms we cannot yet model, nor do we understand. So, while it is still true that we control our own destiny, that is probably only true today for a subset of the global population. It doesn’t mean we can’t improve, but we are already late.
RFMPrint This Post
- Leave a comment... Comments Off