Thursday, July 15, 2010

The day the oil flow stopped

Finally, some good news from the Gulf of Mexico. It seems that the latest device put in place to stop the oil gushing from the runaway well is working. The oil flow has stopped, at least temporarily.

That is not to say that the problem has been fixed. Apparently, the only way to stop the spill permanently is with the relief wells. Work continues on them but they are still weeks away from being able to do what they are designed to do. In the meantime though, it is a happy thing to be able to see that live picture from under the sea with no torrent of oil gushing into the water.

Of course, the relief wells and the temporary or even permanent stoppage of the oil flow doesn't do anything about all that oil and all the other chemicals that have been poured into the Gulf waters this spring and summer. All of that poisonous goop is still there in a place where it never should have been and it is still doing its damage to the food chain and to the environment of both animals and people along the coast.

Regarding that damage, a curious thing was reported by the New York Times this week. It seems that most of the animals that have washed up dead on the coast and have now been autopsied do not show signs of contamination from oil. And yet animals are dead in far too great numbers to be considered a normal die-off. Speculation on the reasons for the die-off ranges from the effects of breathing the fumes from the oil, to the dispersants, to indirect stress caused by the upsetting of the ecosystem by the disaster to...who knows? Until all the toxicology and other tests have been completed and all the data is collated, it is difficult to say what the proximate cause or causes of all these deaths have been.

I will make a wager with you though. Even though direct oil contamination may not be the cause of the deaths, it was the oil spill that killed them. It has been just one obstacle too many for fragile species to overcome. Whatever fines and penalties BP and its partners finally have to pay, it won't restore any of these precious lives and it won't be enough.

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