Memories Fade but the Scars Linger
by Bill Chameides | May 24th, 2010
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)
Over the weekend, oil arrived along the Louisiana coast and wildlife biologists like the two pictured here set out to help oil-impacted wildlife such as brown pelicans. But how long will this important story receive top news billing? (USFWS/Greg Thompson)
How long will it be before the “oiling” of the Gulf Coast will be old news?
We humans are amazingly adaptable, accommodating creatures. We are great at coping. For the most part it is one of our great strengths, but in some cases I wonder…
Accommodating the Unthinkable
In the 1980s, a TV movie called Special Bulletin used the mockumentary format to depict a fictionalized terrorist/hostage situation that culminates in the detonation of a nuclear bomb. (Watch the video on Google.) In the movie, for days after the explosion, the widespread loss of life and decimation surrounding the tragedy in and around the story’s setting of Charleston, South Carolina, led the evening news lineup. But eventually the story faded amid the press of other events. As in so many real chapters in U.S. history, the Americans in that movie found the fortitude to move on.
Of course, we have experienced the actual unthinkable on 9/11, and we live every day with the awareness that an even worse terrorist attack could occur at any moment. But still we cope, we adapt. The security may be heightened, but business and commerce go on.
Indeed, growing up in the 1950s, I never found living with the threat of mutual nuclear destruction unusual — it was simply the way it was. Thomas Friedman in his 1989 book From Beirut to Jerusalem gives riveting accounts of people dealing with life in Beirut in the 1980s under the constant threat of bombs. The coping mechanisms available to us in such high-level stress situations are nothing short of amazing.
Too Good at Coping or Not Good Enough?
Over the weekend, BP’s oil arrived with a vengeance along the Louisiana coast. The pictures of “oiled” beaches and wildlife are big news. But how long will it take before these too become old news? Already it would appear that we are in the process of “moving on.” This morning the New York Times reported that the Obama administration has approved at least seven new permits for various deepwater oil-drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico.
I think few would disagree that at the bottom of all this lies our thirst for oil. We act as if our need for oil were an inescapable force of nature or terrorist attack. We just have to have it, and if that means drilling wherever we can find it, so be it. And if stuff happens, like the decimation of some of our most precious resources along Louisiana’s coast, there’s just not very much we can do, because we gotta have that oil. And what about next time? Who knows, but it’s no problem — we are equipped to adapt. But should we? Friedman in his New York Times column from last week argues no.
Getting our oil and accepting the loss of our coastal ecosystems is one way of dealing with it and Lord knows we’re good at that. But you know there is another way. If we are so good at coping, how come we can’t figure out a way to cope with less gasoline? And it you think about it, those wetlands along the Gulf Coast — they really are a force of nature. Just don’t pretend that our need for oil can justify the end of the wetlands.filed under: energy, faculty, fossil fuels, oceans, oil, wildlife
and: Deepwater Horizon, Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, Louisiana, natural resources, offshore energy, oil drilling, oil resources, oil spill, wetlands