As much as I like to herald the good things humanity has done, I can’t help but feel distressed at the bad things. Things such as this. The bp oil spill is one of the worst ecological disasters in recent history, and from the news, it’s set to continue for a while as they attempt to fix it.

Now ok, as you’ll see from the image below, the Deepwater Horizon spill isn’t the biggest spill in history. Actually, it’s mercifully small. The problem here is the location. The Gulf of Mexico is home to a plethora of flora and fauna. Some, like the cold seeps, are unique and of special scientific interest. In particular, certain communities of chemosynthetic life live in the north part of the Gulf of Mexico, and for all we know, there are no others exactly like them on the face of our planet. Interestingly though, some of these lifeforms actually metabolise hydrocarbons! Maybe they might even help to clean things up. Don’t think I’m being a stoic scientist here either. Lots of people life on the coast and make their living catching fish or farming shrimp. Fish and shrimp which are now dead. It’s all very well that bp are telling people they’ll pay dividends, but really, these people have had their livelihoods ruined here.

There is also another problem to do with the location of this spill. The Gulf of Mexico is the driving force in the Gulf Stream. One of the world’s most powerful ocean currents, the Gulf Stream is responsible for circulating much of the water in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as for keeping Britain warm.* Unfortunately, this means that oil from this spill is likely to be diluted and circulated around the entire Atlantic. The North American coast, Europe and even the Arctic may possibly see traces of spilled oil wash up on shore. Contaminants will probably end up in the Atlantic food chain. I fear we may be seeing repercussions of this disaster for years to come.

*I know that a significant fraction of my acquaintances will start whining at this statement, that “Britain isn’t warm.” In response to anyone who feels that way, I’d recommend you go on holiday to Siberia, which is at the same latitude!

Photograph (Top) – Boston Globe – The Big Picture
Inforgraphic (Bottom) – Gavin Potenza

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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4 Responses to Oil

  1. invaderxan says:

    No matter the scale of the spill, it still does harm.
    Precisely my point. :

  2. Anonymous says:

    Warmth is all relative ;p Also, No matter the scale of the spill, it is still does harm. Sarah

  3. sandalfon says:

    Even though the oil spill kills me I think your pic is terrific, such a great shot of the waves like that. I don’t care if there have been other oil spills worse than this one, this one is so horrible all because the friggin oil company could have done so much more in the very beginning to utilize others to help. I am very grateful that you posted this information.
    In my lifetime, I’m almost 63 years old, there have been great inventions for fuel alternative vehicles but the idiotic greed of the oil companies would buy the rights and destroy all opportunities each and every time. When I was just a child they were inventing them, that has been way too many years of oil company owner greed. They don’t care how much the rest of us have to suffer when things like this happen, we are nothing to them and this is worse than all the damage the oil spill will do and the spill, along with all the other natural disasters and wars and such, will cause tremendous suffering.
    Hold on tight, there will me so much more to come.

  4. invaderxan says:

    Re: Oil spill
    Thank you very much for your comment. You make some very good points. :)
    I’ll admit that it is a little troublesome that there isn’t a date on that graphic. As for what I want to achieve? Two points…
    For one, when you consider the devastation caused so far when it’s still a relatively small amount, we should both be thankful that it could be much worse, and we should hope that protests and lobbying get bp to fix things post haste, before things get significantly worse!
    For two, the fact of where precisely this spill is means that even the amount spilled thus far can and will affect much of the Atlantic Ocean means that even if the spill remains one of the smaller drops on that map, it will still have a profound effect.
    Perhaps I should try and contact the graphic artist who made the image and inquire a little about some details. Though I must say (and feel free to correct me on this), I don’t see how any comments other than one about the spill being “mercifully small” are any less valid…

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