The human impact of this disaster cannot be overlooked. It could potentially be devastating.
I had an instant message conversation with a friend yesterday which made me feel that a follow-up post was in order. I am also pretty amazed by the lack of concern about this disaster. The friend and I compared this situation to the Valdez spill. I remember people being outraged, upset, depressed, concerned, and spurred to action. I am not sensing the same outcry in this situation, and it’s puzzling.
The rest of our conversation focused on the human impact of this disaster, which I did not really touch on in my last post. The gulf coast is already in bad shape – katrina ravaged NO, hurricanes have been destroying homes, and recovery efforts are in no way completed. Imagine your home was destroyed. And you didn’t have insurance. And your entire community was gone. And one of the primary industries in your community was tourism – and no one wants to visit what more or less looks like a war zone on their vacation. So you are homeless, jobless, and probably living in a “temporary” FEMA trailer. All of these systems – the oceans, the communities of the Gulf Coast, the economic system, the wetlands, the coast – are all interrelated and dependent on one another. They are also incredibly fragile, as they have been taking an unprecedented beating for the past three or four years.
And now this.
My example is obviously simplified, and is based on my minimal understanding of the situation, but I think that there is going to be a huge and very real human cost to this disaster. The Gulf area is also incredibly resilient – people are proud of where they live, and want to rebuild it, and have demonstrated they will stay and they will rebuild. They will need this resilience, as I think that the impact of this “spill” is going to exceed Katrina. With Katrina, there was an end. The hurricane came, it destroyed, it demolished. And then the sun came up. “The worst was over” and the clean-up, which was immense in scale, could begin. This is not to minimize the disaster that was Katrina – the destruction the hurricane brought to the Gulf region is unlike anything I have seen in America in my life – but only to point out that there is really no end in sight to the Transocean Deepwater Horizon disaster.
I don’t see where the sun is coming up here. The plans to stop the bleeding of oil into the Atlantic all seem to be based on wild hunches and brainstorms. One thing is clear: BP had no plan in place to address cataclysmic problems in their rig. There was no safety plan beyond the existing mechanisms that were supposed to stop the leaks (which failed). I find this to be a clear and fundamental failure. It would be like preparing for a round-the-world sail without checking your life raft inflates and your first aid kit is complete. No sailor would embark on that trip without prepping for it. Drilling for oil in the deep ocean is an incredible engineering feat. Not having a plan in place that addresses what to do if disaster strikes is unbelievable. Stopping this leak is going to take another monumental engineering solution. Just today, the BP president likened the cleanup to “performing open heart surgery at 5,000 feat under the sea.” This is not the type of leadership quotation that inspires a whole lot of confidence in a positive outcome.
If you are interested in keeping current on what’s happening, i suggest following:
The Huffington Post (even if you are a republican, they seem to get the scale of the disaster, put aside the partisan politics for today!)
The Treehugger oil spill timeline, which is updated as new facts become available
or twitter search for “#oilpocalypse”, and/or “#oilspill”
Huffington Post also has a great resource guide for how you can help: Deepwater Horizon – How you can help