Ecology and Social Issues20 May 2010 09:26 pm

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a stock market radio program being hosted by two people who live on the gulf coast in Alabama. The discussion on the market turned into a general update on the national and local economy. This led them to highlight the potential impact of the oil spill in the gulf. I listened intently as I had not followed the story at all and wanted to be educated on the topic.

After outlining the backdrop of a poor real estate market and a slumping tourist industry they talked of how fragile and weak the local economic environment was. The spill was talked about as a potential fatal blow to the struggling economy as the devastation to the fishing industry might prove to be quite lengthy.

One of the men said that he was getting emails from people in Alaska who said the initial reports out of the gulf sounded eerily familiar to what happened up there during the Valdez spill. He said they expected the reports to become more and more devastating as time went on, for their early reports on the Valdez spill were rather tame and vague.

Well as time passes on these words have turned quite prophetic as each day new information surfaces which paints quite a bleak and dire picture of the spill. Estimates of damage cited by BP seem to be significantly undervalued and scientific calculations of oil flow are several times that given by oil industry spokesmen.

During times like this articles are released which at other times are ignored or buried. One article I read stated that the term “accident” is very misleading in that it gives the impression that spillage is a rare event. The article went on to quote sources which discussed the common everyday occurrence of minor spills which occur regularly in the drilling and loading of oil barges. According to the article day-to-day spillage of just business as usual operations does add up. In which every five years the amount of oil lost in our oceans is equal to the Valdez spill.

Even if that figure is inflated it does beg the question of exactly how much oil is dispensed into international waters each and every year. What is the damage to our sea life and our dwindling fresh water supply? Where can we find accurate information regarding water pollution, long term effects of pollution on the safety and quality of our seafood, and the long term prospects on the overall health of our oceans?

Shortly after 9/11 we were deceived and lied to regarding the air quality near the twin tower cites. Will the same thing happen regarding the safety of seafood in the gulf?

The current situation seems surreal to me.

Maybe I’m wrong, but when you see the videos of the broken pipe, and you read between the lines on the well orchestrated press releases regarding the spill it all seems so dire. Oil plumes the size of states and potential water flow patterns are scary for anyone brave enough to try and imagine their short term and long term impact.

The damage and harm done by this spill could rival almost any disaster we have faced for centuries. The Valdez spill, three mile island, Chernobyl, maybe even the ecological damage caused by our use of atomic bombs may be eclipsed by the death of a major waterway.

Given the length and intensity of this ongoing crisis, is the thought of the death of at least a portion of the gulf really that extreme or over reactionary?

I guess it is, for I don’t feel or hear anyone’s panic or even deep concern regarding this possibility. What am I missing?

Could someone explain to me how the gulf can shake this off and heal itself when the area of the Valdez spill is still hampered some two decades after the event?

Jim Guido

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