The world has once again gasped at news from the Gulf, not the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mexico. We are not threatened by a hurricane this time but the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. This rig was at the cutting edge of oil-drilling technology. It drilled, then capped, then drilled again. Its floating platform was held in place by a global positioning system.
Transoceanic (BP’s renter) was closing a drilling site, preparing to move. There are many safeguards, and all are used before shut-off valves are needed. But this fire surged swiftly. No alarm buttons were pushed. I see a swoo-ooo-ooosh of FIRE, rising 300 feet about the water, …in an instant.
Life was lost; human life on the front end; fish, animals, birds, plants, and Gaia are waiting in line.
Many local groups, including the Sierra Club, called for volunteers. Weather kept relief efforts in the bay for several days. Fishermen, who risk losing their fishing grounds, shrimp and oyster beds, await BP (and the Coast Guard) for approval of a local plan. They want to place booms across the river mouths. Barrier islands (and a few of them still remain) will blunt the impact of the oil on the swamps and marshes further inland but any oil that enters a stream will spread to the interconnecting waterways, channels, and canals emptying into the stream. The current ask (from those who stand to lose their livelihood) is for the fuel (and BP should have some of that) to initiate their coastal protection effort.
At our Sunday morning worship service we have a time for joys and sorrows. Our first three candles were lit for those who died, for the people trying to contain the slick, and for all the creatures that live on our coastline. We are deeply concerned, mostly for our coastline, for the fish and birds that live there, and for all who live in the entire Gulf Coast region. Part of our angst is tied up with governmental/bureaucratic/corporate red tape, colored by the fact that President Bush was ineffective during and after Katrina–while the people suffered. Now we wait to see if President Obama’s administration will manage the clean up effectively.
For several days we thought this was Louisiana light crude, a thinner oil that breaks down quickly when exposed to sunlight and bacteria. But a weekend report said one chemical test showed it may be raw material for asphalt—a heavier oil, impervious to chemical and natural degradation. Yet, other reports say chemicals are being shot by robot subs into the oil’s flow a mile below the surface. These chemicals have broken up the oil, causing a reduced residue to fall to the ocean floor, minimizing the amount of oil that reaches the surface, or so says the latest report.
Any hope for a minimal environmental impact was shattered this morning (May 3rd). Jellyfish and sea turtles have washed up on the Mississippi shores. Some of these turtles are on the verge of extinction. This may be the final straw for them. Oil is already in the coastal currents. This current carries water down the western edge of Florida. The Florida Keys may soon see oil on their beaches.
One more thought. The plates of our planet are moving. Earthquakes and volcanoes may well be a signal. Yet we puncture Gaia’s epidermis with our most modern syringes. We drain out our earth’s fluids then throw it into our atmosphere and seem to expect our eco-system will not respond. May this be a warning, a warning we will remember, long after the news-cycle has turned, long after the Gulf returns to health.