AP Study: Dispersants from BP Oil Spill "May Have" Hurt Gulf Food Chain
Sometimes Captain Obvious is actually saying something a little more subtle.
Not Exactly a Mystery
Most people have heard of BP's Deepwater Horizon debacle in April 2010, the legendary oil spill that shut down the local economy and wrecked the environment of the Gulf of Mexico for more than a year after the spill had been taken care of. Of course, the Gulf Coast's population and ecosystem are still reeling from the results, but it's not front page news anymore, which in modern society more often than not means it's just "not happening" anymore.
Now, I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but it's an oil spill. I find it hard to believe that there is a single human being alive that could argue in front of man, woman, or God him (or her)self that any oil spill, especially this particular oil spill, doesn't have lasting negative effects on a whole region of the world and likely the entire planet.
Scientists, environmental activists, and even some industry leaders have been screaming just this ever since oil spills first seeped into the public consciousness. The International Tanker Owners' Pollution Federation, a nonprofit group dedicated to responding to and helping to clean up oil spills, goes a step further and argues that many members of the public and scientific community actually believe damage to the environment from oil spills is permanent. The ITOPF maintains a database of oil spills around the world, however, and finds that ecosystems are more resilient and often recover (with a little help) from the effects of a spill.
As said, the obvious answer is that any oil spill negatively impacts the surrounding environment. And it seems equally obvious, at least to me, that given enough time mother nature will recover from what we inflict upon her so long as we're careful not to overwhelm her and thus shut down the very systems that aid natural recovery through overuse. But nature isn't the only kind of green lost in an oil spill, and money tends to make everything a little more evil.
This is definitely the case with the biggest oil spill in history. It's severely damaged several local industries: tourism, fishing, energy, etc. as well as caused headaches for public officials trying to do the most basic of things like ensuring that local drinking water stays oil free.
While most of the world is blessed with not having to live in the backyard of an oil spill, it means that they don't have the clarity of perception required to sniff out the bull which has been spilled just as violently all over the gulf coast when it comes to this particular spill. This is for several reasons, all of which aren't quite logical. The oil industry, for example, has decided to make an example of this particular spill, and has been doing everything in its power to simultaneously clean it up as fast as possible (so as to keep the government out of the picture) and do nothing at all. Running in place isn't just for the private sector, either. Local governments don't have the resources to have the problem and thus have been reduced to looking like beggars, to the growing contempt of suffering citizens who simply want relief. The federal government is doing all it can, but since it's half bought by the very industry it's trying to police, there isn't much it can realistically do without causing Civil War level gridlock.
A Way Out?
As with any problem, there are plenty of solutions to this one, but none of them are conventional. Most things require at least a little innovation; unfortunately, politicians are paid to do just the opposite in most cases. Still, the US might be able to take a page from Theodore Roosevelt and solve the problem in a big way.
The spill zone is quite large, and dominates a wide portion of the Gulf of Mexico. There are likely thousands more nautical miles of ocean affected by the spill, but focusing on the more immediate spill zone is really the only practical foundation for a lasting solution. The government should, by executive order, cordon off a few hundred square miles (preferably a lot more if possible) for use as a national sanctuary, with limited fishing rights for local fishermen and women. This will allow for faster natural recovery with less human interference and can be easily be enforced by the US navy. National sanctuaries have done a lot for America in the past, including save much of the west from rapid deforestation at the turn of the twentieth century. It seems only fitting that we do it again, and hopefully set an example for how to deal with spills in the future.