Illusion in the Gulf

One year after the Deep Water Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, all appears to be well. The blue waters and white beaches are no longer tainted with black swaths of oil, sea birds are not encased in crude and most of the Gulf fisheries have reopened for business. BP and the Federal Government have pulled most of their cleanup crews, fines have been levied and reimbursement funds are trickling through the Gulf Coast economy. Most important to U.S. oil companies, offshore drilling continues in the wake of our country's greatest environmental disaster.

As often occurs after such events, political and industrial response is directly proportional to the degree of media coverage that is generated by the disaster. Once the gushing oil well was plugged, almost three months after the explosion, intense media coverage waned and the commitment of BP faded with the camera lights. The Federal Government, hobbled by debt and a weak economy, lost interest in the Gulf and failed to prosecute the other industrial giants responsible for this catastrophe.

The fact that we continue to refer to the event as an "oil spill," as if an oil barge capsized in the Gulf, highlights our tendency to minimize the effects of man-made disasters; in this case, crude oil gushed into the Gulf for 87 days and it's hard to accept the soothing conclusion that environmental effects have been limited. We have yet to learn how deep water ecosystems were affected by the oil and, as any student of nature knows, all ecosystems are interconnected. The image of recovery, fostered by the oil industry and condoned by our Government, is but an illusion.