“It’s the 100th day since the start of the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico … But, it’s the 13,000th day(!) since the discovery of the Gulf ‘s Dead Zone.” Michael Glantz. 29 July 2010.

Written by M. Glantz. Posted in All Fragilecologies, Climate Affairs, Disasters, Environment and Society

Published on July 29, 2010 with 3 Comments

“It’s the 100th day since the start of the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico …
But, it’s the 13,000th day(!) since the discovery of the Gulf ‘s Dead Zone”

Michael Glantz. 29 July 2010.

Well, the leaking oil well on the Gulf of Mexico seabed has finally been capped. Soon it will be recorded permanently in historical records as the worst environmental disaster in the US history to date, beating out the Exxon Valdez oil spill (where was that spill? Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Most people don’t remember that). Soon, I believe most Americans (except those along the Gulf Coast) will put the BP leak — despite its widespread environmental damage and huge ecological, economic and social costs — in the back of their minds (who remembers the Torrey Canyon spill or the Amoco Cadiz spill?). I call that “discounting the past,” that is, societies think that history is of decreasing value as one looks back in time. It’s the opposite of what economists refer to as “discounting the future” of, say, the dollar.

Back in 1974, Dr. R. Eugene Turner, Director of Coastal Ecology Institute at Louisiana State University, discovered a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. The dead zone is the result of runoff from cities, farmlands, feedlots and factories into the mighty Mississippi River. This River basin drains about 40% of the continental United States. Herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers among other chemicals are released on a routine basis throughout the basin. In the springtime they accumulate of the Gulf Coast forming an 8000+ square mile region, which adversely affects all living marine resources.

Each year the dead zone increases in size and has an increasingly negative impact on the fish population and in turn on the commercial fisheries. As I wondered in an earlier podcast titled “Pick Your Poison!”, why has there been no constant, even deafening, uproar about either the causes or the consequences of the ever-increasing dead zone? Although it is not the only dead zone in the world (there are an estimated 300 of them of varying sizes worldwide), it is OUR dead zone.

While in the midst of having a coffee at a local Starbucks, I began to jot down a few ideas about a comparison between the BP spill and the dead zone. The ideas herein do not represent the results of a systematic review but are only first-order thoughts. Such a comparison would make for an interesting class project or paper. Feel free to send me your thoughts, comments, corrections and additional comparisons related to the chart below.


3 Comments

There are currently 3 Comments on “It’s the 100th day since the start of the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico … But, it’s the 13,000th day(!) since the discovery of the Gulf ‘s Dead Zone.” Michael Glantz. 29 July 2010.. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. I would compare these scenes to a visual analogy in the form of an offering. Say you offered a society a jug and you labeled it “poison”, and you offered the same society a jug labeled “milk” without telling them that the milk has a single drop from the jug labeled “poison”…

    Naturally society is reaping short term gains and subsistence by mildly feeding pollutants into the water stream, call this “milk”… when presented with a sudden “poison” scenario, they immediately revolt, yet fail to make the connection.

    Reaping local, regional and national gains at the price of “milk” is one thing… having immediate subsistence affected by “poison” scenario is…?

  2. The ironic thing about the Gulf oil spill is that it could deplete O2 in the “dead zones” even more… all those oil-eating microbes need oxygen to break down the hydrocarbons

    • hi mary, thanks for the comment BUT do you and the media realize that you fell into the other BP trap? what’s that you ask? BP has put millions of dollars into branding the spill or leak or mess in the Gulf as the Gulf leak or Gulf spill as opposed to the BP spill or leak. it sought i believe to avoid being the standard of bad oil spills for the 21st century as the EXXON VALDEZ spill was labeled after the perpetrator and not the victimized region!! we sould refer to it as the more neutral BP spill; and spill not leak. what do you think?? mickey

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