“Amity, As You Know, Means Friendship!”

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I’ve been wanting to cough up some oh-so-clever commentary comparing the Gulf Coast to the to the idyllic oceanside tourist town in the classic movie “Jaws”. But as the two month mark nears a gusher of oil is still blasting out and the toxic dispersants are still flowing. The most effective actions to date have targeted media control and liability management. A culture and ecosystem are dying even as corporations are considered by plutocratic fiat to be “too big to fail”.

So much for the shark, the mayor, the Chief and the Captain.

Just off the the Gulf coast is a giant skulking toxic mass of oily hydrocarbons, known-poisonous ‘dispersant’ and dead biology. The winds and currents steer it where they may.
While authorities encourage us to assume that “nature” will handle the oil through some quasi-magical measure of natural bioremediation, the sheer quantities of this toxic dose combined with the insidious dispersant-mediated distribution throughout the water column will exact a heavy toll on marine life for years to come.

As for the coastal communities dependent upon the Gulf ecosystem being healthy and fertile, well they understand all too well the risks, the dangers and the urgency of response. Left alone the oozing blobs of poison will kill quietly, with most of the death concealed and uncounted forever in the depths. Indeed we may lose uncounted marine microbial species without ever knowing of their existence.

Here at the top of the food chain the fishermen will have less catch, less income and less motivation to carry on. Already oyster farmers along the coast are looking desperation in the eye and seeing years of poisoned nursery beds. Even well-established iconic business are bleeding to death.

Barring a containment effort as heroic as it is unlikely, many of the tourist beach communities and attendant economies will lose a big chunk of summer income. And there are no certainties that the loss will be restricted to just this summer. In the midst of the Great Recession this is another cruel blow from which many will not recover.
And perhaps most importantly for the region, the Gulf Coast brand itself will face a deeply painful ruination, again with no guarantee of being confined to the current season.

It’s hard not to think that much of the damage may have already been set into untamable motion. The leak is pluming up from the bottom of the Gulf, spreading widely as it rises. By choosing to chemically “disperse” the oil both at the surface and at the source 5000′ below, we have assured that much of the oil is unlikely to be collectible by skimmers or tankers, or probably anything else. And that 1.8+ million gallons of toxic dispersant will likely wander around the food chain for some time to come.

Even if the gushing flow were completely capped today the cleanup options may be mostly limited to booming shorelines, vacuuming oil puddles and scooping & scraping the damaged beaches. Comprehensive repair of the marshes may be as far beyond human ability as is bringing back the 11 dead rig workers.

Some time well into the future, perhaps 100 years or so, Gulf Disaster scholars will puzzle over the decision to dump massive quantities of toxic dispersants into an already catastrophic spill of poison. They may well also marvel that it appeared to have been done mostly for corporate self interest, with the grinning acquiescence of governmental Authorities.
Most of all they will be shocked at the extent that manic elements of extractive dependence still dominated our energy technology in the early 21st century. Shocked also, at the virulence of the amok memes which forced us to engage in increasingly risky and unforgiving resource exploitation, while assiduously avoiding the subsuming challenges of ecological collapse, population overrun and resource bounding.

Back here in the ’21st, swimming blithely along through the poison, we are at least a generation away from even accepting that such challenges block our pathways to that far distant future.


Written by nullsequence

June 12, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Posted in travesty

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