It took two weeks for everyone in America to get indignant about the oil spill. Many people suddenly were convinced of the health hazards of chemical dispersants. Dozens of Congressmen became experts on the proper variety of well casing to use when drilling for oil.
But when the oil stops gushing and the summer ends, are we going to realise the damage has all been vastly overblown?
It doesn’t get much attention, but there’s been a steady trickle of good news about the aftermath. Yesterday NOAA said it was re-opening one third of the closed Gulf fishing area, where oil hadn’t been spotted for 30 days. NOAA has also said all seafood tested from areas where fishing was permitted has been safe to eat. Last night Admiral Allen flew over the area and there is not a lot of oil in the water out there
And currently only one major beach is closed and three are open with a swimming advisory. Other beaches are open with nothing but a sign advising people not to swim in patches of oil. In other words, the government thinks the oil spill is not a significant health risk for humans. Sure there are plenty of people reporting headaches and other purportedly oil-related ailments, but these could be temporary or imagined. Or they could be limited, enough for a few major lawsuits, but not the end of civilisation.
As for other animals and the environment, no one knows, though again, everyone has a theory. One day everyone was passing around the theory of methane dinosaur extinction and talking about how the Gulf of Mexico methane bubble could kill all life on Earth — well, turns out the scientist who invented that theory was talking about a different kind of methane.
Everyone was freaking out about reports that the oil spill had permanently altered the food chain. Well, things get altered all the time in nature. Disturbance Theory calls oil spills, forest fires, droughts, and other disturbances the fundamental force of natural progress. Remember, oil leaks do occur naturally. Petroleum is a natural substance made of dinosaur parts and trees, which causes less extended damage to the ecosystem than aerosole cans, nuclear waste, and plastic bags.
Politically, this whole thing is just waiting for the spotlight to fade before things get back to normal. Look how hard it has been for Obama to ban drilling for even a short period of time. The Gulf economy depends on oil and residents want to get back to work.
Basically it all comes down to three questions:
- Is there a coverup? Will everyone who touches the oil die and people who eat Texas shrimp get struck with cancer?
- Will the worst-case scenario come true? Will the ocean floor collapse or the relief well fail and keep gushing until Christmas?
- Do most Americans actually know anything about the ecological consequences of the oil leak?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, then let’s all take a long, deep breath.
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