Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And the worst is yet to come

Laurence Lewis:

Fifty miles of Louisiana's coastline already have been hit, including a major pelican rookery. The Louisiana marshes served as nurseries for shrimp, crab and oysters. Will the local fishing industry survive? Even if it does, how long will it take for even moderate recovery, and how many jobs will be lost, both temporarily and permanently? Those marshes also served as a buffer for New Orleans, when hurricanes hit. This just keeps getting worse. And it will take many years for nature to break this mess down.

Among other ominous developments, BP is responding to the EPA's order that it seek an alternative to the dangerous chemical dispersant it had been using by saying it intends to continue with the one it has. Who is in charge, here? Gulf Islands National Seashore is imminently threatened not only by the oil, but by those chemicals. And the government official leading the response to the disaster says only BP has the expertise to plug the leak, and he trusts they are doing their best. Which raises the question of why we entrust entire ecosystems to the expertise of a corporation whose best is a continuing catastrophe.

The magnitude of this disaster is so overwhelmingly large that it's easy to overlook the ways in which it is very small. As in the human scale. The people on Grand Isle who will lose their businesses and their jobs. Those employed in the Louisiana fishing industry. Those employed in the industries that depend on the catch. Those living and working on the coast of Florida, and beyond. The people for whom this disaster could not be much larger. And all the fragile ecosystems that will be destroyed.

This is a teaching moment, for us all. It should be a learning moment. If someone would take this moment to teach. So that enough people would learn. So that we could, collectively, do what needs be done. On the large scale. On the small.

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