It’s too soon to know how we’ll be affected by the oil in the gulf. Scientists have never seen a spill like this one: the oil is being ejected so violently in water so deep that oil and water are actually mixing. Add to that the dispersant British Petroleum is using, and you get huge clouds of emulsified toxins suspended in the water column, poisoning whatever swims into them. No one knows how many toxic plumes there are, how big they are, or where they’re moving. That’s what we don’t see.
What we do see is the sheen of oil on the surface of the sea and the sludge washing into wetlands at the worst possible time of year for the animals that live there.
What we will see after the clean up, if cleaning up is possible, is the oil reemerging, dredged up by hurricanes. And we’ll see the familiar parade of CEOs, regulators, politicians, and their lawyers sputtering into microphones.
And then will come articles, books, and documentaries about the spill and its human and environmental toll. Until those are written, we’ll have to make do with analyses of previous spills:
- Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Riki Ott
- Out of the Channel: The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Prince William Sound, John Keeble
- Before and After an Oil Spill [electronic resource]: The Arthur Kill, Joanna Burger