Monday, May 24, 2010

The BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: Are You getting Mad yet?

Read the full article and access the video at Insider Reprinted here courtesy of

I have been teaching and lecturing about coastal zones for over ten years. I am an affiliate of the Nova University Oceanographic Center and am currently working on a national project to help students understand climate science better. I am also an avid scuba diver and sailor.

So when the BP oil platform exploded and the disaster of a month ago began to unfold in front of us I was very distressed.

But I was not surprised.

We have been putting the world’s coastal areas, beaches and oceans through the wringer for at least a century and a half.

In my coastal policy class I use “Ocean’s End” by Colin Woodard. Although a few years old, it is a terrific but very depressing book about the disasters we have wrought in the Black Sea (almost dead and infested with deadly jellyfish), the coral reefs of Belize (stressed by runoff, overuse, fertilizer from golf courses), the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico (a “dead Zone” from fertilizer and pesticide runoff from farms and fields in almost every state upstream, and the banks of Newfoundland overfished to the point of virtual extinction. In Newfoundland the lobsters were the size of pigs and sailors could almost walk to shore on the water there were so many giant cod in the ocean.

It’s not as if we have not been aware for years that the “… stresses piled up: overfishing, oil spills, industrial discharges, nutrient pollution, wetland destruction, the introduction of alien species,” as Woodard writes about the Black Sea.

I wanted to share this with you because if the Gulf of Mexico BP explosion “accident” as Rand Paul, Tea Part candidate for the Senate from Kentucky, recently called it, were an unexpected and shocking event we could chalk it off to experience.

It was not unexpected. It is just one more in an unending and growing series of abuses we have been heaping on the beaches, coastal marshes, wetland and oceans of the Earth for about two centuries.

I remember as a kid when they filled in most of the huge marsh the “Cienega de Santa Marta,” Colombia. They left a small outlet like a culvert so seawater could enter and leave. However the magnificent marsh and all its sea life and birds soon died and turned into a fetid, sewer and trash infested dump. I saw the exact same in Cuba on the way back to Havana. Of course we landfill almost anything we can lay our hands on here in the U.S. Have you ever been to the Ashley riverfront in Charleston, SC? It’s all landfill.

So I wanted to share a great talk with you in this column. It is by Jeremy Jackson. He is “the Ritter Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Painting pictures of changing marine environments, particularly coral reefs and the Isthmus of Panama, Jackson's research captures the extreme environmental decline of the oceans that has accelerated in the past 200 years.” From TED

The following short talk is used with permission from TED Conferences, LLC (they provided the embedding code of Dr Jackson’s talk.) I hope you enjoy it and realize that we are moving in a precarious direction with our valuable natural assets. We all need to become stewards of what nature or if you are a believer, what God has given us. We need a serious and robust push back against Sara Palin who said again this week that she’s a big fan of offshore drilling and Rush Limbaugh who is a real threat to the future of wildlife, clean water, and all things natural in this nation.

I always find it incomprehensible how hunters and fishing aficionados can continue to also be “dittoheads” (Limbaugh acolytes) apparently serenely unaware that the places they love all around them are being defiled and ravaged by unsound, destructive practices. You will see some comments by viewers of the Jackson talk on the TED site that startlingly reflect this “ostrich syndrome.” (We see it in Iowa with declining pheasant populations and the disappearance of barn owls and other wildlife and yet no public awareness or action to reverse that trend the reason for which any monkey knows).

I am tired of the argument that business is business and we should leave them alone to do their business. I don’t want them doing their business in MY oceans, MY beaches, MY fisheries, MY flyways/migration routes, and MY wetlands anymore!

And I’m starting to get really, really mad! I hope you are too.

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