Just a short five years ago on August 29th 2005, Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed the United States Gulf Coast. In fact parts of New Orleans and other cities in the region remain ghost towns to this day. Now something worse than Katrina is heading for that very same area, but this time it’s not a natural disaster. On April 21st, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded killing eleven workers on board. It would appear that most or all of their “fail safe” mechanisms failed and an oil slick the size of Jamaica is heading for the Louisiana, Alabama and Florida panhandle coasts. Thousands of people along this coastline make their livelihood from fishing. These people, many poor to start with, will lose their livelihood.
But there is an even bigger picture. Should this oil slick reach land, which despite round the clock efforts it likely will, the entire ecosystem of the area will be devastated. Marine life is already suffering greatly. Gulls and pelicans that dive for fish get covered in the oil and drown. Turtles and manatees, already endangered, will die. We must also take into account the time of year. In spring lobsters, shrimp, fish and many other creatures breed. A time of renewal is becoming a time of death. Aside from the roughly 200,000 gallons of oil a day still gushing from the uncapped well, the vast oil slick cuts off light and oxygen so that even those creatures which do not get engulfed in oil may not survive. Those who survive will migrate elsewhere.
Can it get worse? Yes it can. If the oil enters that major current known as the Gulf Stream it can be carried up the North American coastline all the way to Labrador, across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom and northern Europe and south to West Africa. The potential is mind boggling!
And what about us who like to think that all is well in our own little bubble? Well, if oil gets into the Gulf Stream, and even if it doesn’t, it’s only a short distance from Florida to the Bahamas and then to Jamaica. And, by the way, the fish, the lobsters, the gulls and pelicans, the endangered turtles and manatees who ply our coasts are in many cases the very same ones who travel through the Gulf of Mexico!