A common question asked of scientists is how the oil spill will affect life in the Gulf.
My sense is that it will effect directly or indirectly, severely or slightly every single form of life in the Gulf, for many years to come. The air, the water, the sand, the mud, the microbes, the plankton, the marshgrass, the mangroves, the jellyfish, the oysters, the shrimp, the shorebirds, the turtles, the sharks, the redfish, the children, the fishermen, the chefs, the taxi drivers, the artists, the oil industry workers, the politicians. Every single bit and blob of life will be impacted. Save a few oil-eating microbes, no life will change for the better.
Some life will be killed immediately, others will suffer slowly. Some will move away, in search of food, in search of jobs. Some aren’t able to move.
From a single hole, drilled into the bottom of the ocean 5000 feet underwater, gushes catastrophe.
The signature chemistry of the oil coming from the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon well, mixed liberally with the dispersant Corexit that has streamed into the ocean with it, can now be found on the shores of every Gulf state. It’s in the bodies of thousands of species of sea life. It’s in the mouths of hundreds of sea turtles. It’s on the hands and feet and in the lungs of Texans, Louisianans, Mississippians, Floridians, Mexicans as well as all workers and visitors to the Gulf coast. The fact is we don’t know exactly what that means for the health of those in harms way, or for the next generation. Testing on previous versions of Corexit mixed with oil indicate an additive effect. Together they’re more toxic than alone. Previous studies suggest a whole range of ecocidal properties of this chemical soup, from the death of duck embryos to internal bleeding in humans.
A single error amplified and shared equally among individuals, bad apples, misinformed response teams, corrupt regulators, greedy executives, hypnotized politicians, misguided energy policies, and an oil-addicted society, has resulted in our nation’s worst environmental disaster.
It’s all connected. You’ve heard it before from ecologists, astronomers, physicists and metaphysicians alike. And the main reason so many thinkers from such diverse backgrounds find agreement on that point is this: everything is.
Each of us has used oil from the Gulf in a variety of joyful and productive ways. To visit grandma’s house, to commute to work, to hold water, to make music or to save lives.
What we absolutely didn’t have in mind at the time was disaster. My first hope is that one impact of the Gulf oil spill is that the very real line leading from our hands to the gas tank to the pump to the tanker to the rig in the middle of the ocean is somewhat brighter than before. And that that line now stretching from the rig, to the spill, to an asphalted salt marsh, to a dead industry, to a torn family is likewise clearer.
My other hope is that we can now see that all things are connected: us and nature and, unfortunately, oil. And there are much, much better ways to be connected.