Sunday, August 8, 2010

BP and Gulf of Mexico: No Walruses!

"Disaster that never was: Why claims that BP created history's worst oil spill may be the most cynical spin campaign ever"
MailOnline (August 6, 2010)

"The warm, white sand stretches for miles as clean and flat as a freshly laundered bed sheet.

"The turquoise sea is so clear that I can see silvery fish playing around my toes as I take a cooling paddle.

"If there is any more pristine resort in which to spend a summer holiday than Pensacola Beach, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I would like to find it.

"And yet, at a time of year when usually there is barely room to unfold a deckchair, the shore is eerily deserted.

"Ask Pensacola's fretfully quiet seafront traders why the tourists have all stayed away and they angrily recall one chaotic day back in late June.

"Then, hungry for dramatic TV footage to support Barack Obama's announcement, that the BP - or, as he preferred, 'British Petroleum' - oil spill was 'the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced', news networks descended on their town.

"They quickly found what they were looking for: shocking images of Pensacola's famously white beaches thickly-coated with sticky, black crude oil and apparently beyond salvation...."

Particularly the walruses that British Petroleum had heartlessly, callously, cluelessly claimed they could save.

Walruses? I'm not making that up. BP had included walruses in its response plan for spills in the Gulf of Mexico. (June 9, 2010)

That was then.

From what I've read in the news, BP has been taking a close look at which yahoos they've put in critical decision-making posts - and done a little internal reorganization.

Meanwhile, around the Gulf, a whole lot of people are short of money. Some of them because the American government shut down the oil drilling industry that had employed them, others because reporters kept telling tourists that the beaches were soaked with great gobs of oil and dead birds and yukky stuff like that.

It's true, sort of. Some beaches did have oil on the sand:

(from Steve Douglas/Digital Beach Media, Via MailOnline, used w/o permission)

That was then.

This is now:

(from Steve Douglas/Digital Beach Media, Via MailOnline, used w/o permission)
'Never mind.'

So, what happened?

Is the oil gone - or going - from the Gulf because bands of eco-workers marched to the beach, each waving a copy of "Silent Spring" and chanting "recycle or die," then toiled in collective strength to cleanse delicate Mother Earth of the deadly toxins of cancerous humanity?

Not exactly, it seems.

Actually, there were workers on the beach. Not, perhaps, the 'right' sort for news coverage: "...if the U.S. TV news crews had returned just three days after their original visit, they would have seen that the black morass had already been removed by some of the 20,000 clean-up workers hired by BP...."

There was more going on in the Gulf than that clean-up crew, though.

Remember, there are huge reservoirs of petroleum under the Gulf of Mexico. Even without drilling, sometimes they leak.

When something that's not necessarily good for organisms is around now and again, organisms tend to adapt.

"...a respected Time magazine environmental writer voiced the near-heretical proposition: that the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20 had been massively hyped.

"His article was largely based on the opinions of Professor Ivan van Heerden, a brilliant but controversial marine scientist fired by Louisiana State University after publishing a book about Hurricane Katrina that said cataclysmic flooding was inevitable because the protection given to the coast was wholly inadequate.

"He said: 'There is just no data to suggest this is an environmental disaster - although BP lied about the size of the oil spill, we're not seeing catastrophic impacts.'

"Also recovering: Marsh grasses, with new growth, are seen along the Louisiana coastline

"Emboldened by the academic's willingness to go against the accepted wisdom, other leading scientists have concurred, with similar views being expressed in influential U.S. newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post...."

There's quite a bit more to the article, but I'll indulge in just one more excerpt. The setup for this is that plants grow along the Gulf of Mexico. A sort of byproduct of this growth is:

"...a thick, dark-brown plant sediment known as ‘coffee ground’ for its resemblance to the dregs left at the bottom of the cup."

"...Even from a few feet away, this sediment can be very easily mistaken for oil, and often when passing boats or aircraft report spotting oil on the shore, this is what they have really seen.

"This is one reason why the extent of the coastal oiling has been exaggerated. Indeed, Grenon, a veteran of 25 spills, says he is constantly amazed at how little pollution he finds.

"He says: 'I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's probably the largest spill there has ever been and yet there's hardly any oil.

" 'The ecosystem around here is also used to oil. It's been here forever, and there are more than 4,000 oil wells in the Gulf.

" 'So there are spills and natural seepage all the time, and the fish and plants adapt to deal with them. I'm confident the area will make a full recovery.'..."

Well, I wouldn't say that the ecosystem has been there "forever." Earth is only about four and a half billion years old, and that particular patch of real estate has changed quite a bit in the roughly 65,000,000 years since an asteroid knocked a hole in what's now the Yucatan Peninsula.

But I agree with Grenon's point, that the critters living in and around the Gulf have been dealing with petroleum leaks for a lot longer than BP has been around. Or England, or homo sapiens sapiens.

Now, since the walruses who never really existed, are gone from the Gulf, isn't it about time that the American government let the oil companies who haven't already left - rehire those unemployed folks?

Related post:More:


info said...

We all know there are no walruses in the Gulf. Even though it was a mindless cut-and-paste action by BP and the others, shame on them for not proof-reading. The "walruses in the gulf" issue left some South Louisianians saddened that some people might really not know what animals are really being damaged down here. We put together this video to show them.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Old-school American news media did a pretty good job of saturation coverage of their Gulf of Mexico.

By now, I rather doubt that there are many folks in the English-speaking world who didn't get the impression that all the beaches and birds and fish were completely covered with oil.

The sad reality is that the Gulf of Mexico is not utterly ruined forever. The point of those 'before' and 'after' photos was to show what's really happening - not the crisis du jure we're supposed to believe in.

I know: some fish died. Some birds died. Some tourists had to deal with oily beaches. For a few days. And a whole lot of folks on the Gulf had to deal with bad press that kept their customers and clients away.

Oil has been leaking from the bottom of the gulf ever since that part of the world went under water, and that the plants and animals have long since adapted to these occasional disasters. It's rough on individual critters: but the system as a whole is doing what it's done since before our ancestors used fire.

Of course, now that Big Oil is around: well, that's where the news crews come in.

As for Saving the Critters? Well, volunteer work can do a lot of good.

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