Oil? What Oil?

One of the most baffling reactions to the oil spill is how comfortable everyone seems to be with the idea of millions of barrels of oil just disappearing, into thin air. According to BP an estimated 92 million barrels of oil are nowhere to be found. Gulf Restoration Network, Michelle Erenberg, shows us this is far from true. Her pictures show that there’s plenty of oil to skim, so what’s the deal?

Is the desire to return to business as usual overriding the reality of the situation?

We all know that BP has an interest in ushering in a “solution”, so does the government. Both entities can look like they are in control of this mess. But what about the people who call the gulf their home? There’s of course the economic incentive to minimize the spill. Industries that are most affected, like shrimping in Louisiana are worth up to $133.5 million. Having already suffered losses from the spill itself, you can see why someone would go to great lengths to minimize the gravity of the event.

But there’s another factor too. There are families like the Collins who have 4 generations of men who build their livelihood from catching oysters. The oil spill has interrupted more than their means of earning money, it has disrupted a way of life, a family tradition. Maybe minimizing the magnitude of the gulf’s oil spill is a way to retain a piece of who they are.

These are just some of the questions I’d like to explore once down in the gulf. I want to really understand what the relationship is between the people and the water and their reactions to the spill itself and the consequent clean up. Throwing your hands up and surrendering to the idea of most of the oil just going away may work today. But the long term affects on the environment, on the health of the people, on the ecosystem in the gulf will linger longer than the media’s latest claim.

As the long term effects of the oil spill continue to ripple through the livelihoods of Gulf communities, it will be harder to just keep your head in the sand and indulge in denial about the spill’s impact. Maybe more exposure to what’s really going on in the gulf through this project will wake people up to how destructive this disaster has been.

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08 2010