From The Huffington Post, “Gulf Oil Spill: A Symbol of What Fossil Fuels Do To The Earth Every Day, Say Environmentalists”:
The leading edge of a vast oil slick started to come ashore in Louisiana on Thursday night, a shroud of devastation falling on America’s coastline even as the blown-up BP oil well that produced it continues to belch millions of gallons of thick crude into the Gulf of Mexico for a third straight week.
At moments like this, it’s hard to see any silver lining here at all. But it’s possible there is one. Many environmentalists say that the wrenching and omnipresent images of filth and death are at last providing Americans with visible, visceral and possibly mobilizing evidence of the effects that fossil fuels are having on our environment every day.
Rick Steiner is horrified at the damage. A University of Alaska marine specialist, he’s watched cleanup efforts ever since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, and has learned some bitter lessons.
“Government and industry will habitually understate the volume of the spill and the impact, and they will overstate the effectiveness of the cleanup and their response,” he said. “There’s never been an effective response — ever — where more than 10 or 20 percent of the oil is ever recovered from the water. Once the oil is in the water, the damage is done.”
And most of the damage remains invisible deep below the surface, including the wide-scale destruction of essential plankton in the area and the wiping out of an entire generation of fish larvae. “This is real toxic stuff,” Steiner said.
But the damage that is visible — the vast and foul oil slick, the dolphins swimming through sludge, the birds coated in oil, the dead fish and sharks and turtles — is enough to thoroughly disgust anyone paying attention.
And that, Steiner said, makes it a “teachable moment” that “will hopefully serve as a wake-up call that we need to turn to sustainable energy.”
After all, that carbon we’re seeing poison the Gulf was headed into the planetary ecosystem anyway, through tailpipe emissions.
“That’s part of the irony of all this, is it just took a shortcut,” Steiner said. “This carbon took a shortcut into the environment from what it normally does, and it’s obvious to people what the problem is here.”
Click here to read the full story on The Huffington Post.