Oil Plumes Measured at 1140M Depth

This morning I checked into Skytruth.org to learn the extent of the oil plumes. A blog contributor took me to the Gulf Oil Blog of the U.S. Marine Sciences. There you can find results of sampling in suspected deepwater plumes of oil. The measure is called a CDOM (colored dissolved organic matter). Scientists measured above and below the plume then sampled from the middle of the plume. Above and below they found no organic matter but within the plume they got a strong reading and could see an oily residue left over on the filters. Skytruth is tracking the movement of oil plumes from the Maconda well and it appears to be moving in the loop current and toward the Florida straits.

Skytruth cautions that there are natural processes that can also create oil sheen on the surface. But when you go to the U.S. Marine Sciences site you learn to “trust your senses”. This spill, if as White House energy and environment adviser Carol Browner warned, goes on through August when relief wells will be in place to receive the oil, we could see lasting and extensive impact on marine ecosystems along the whole of the Gulf, Florida and perhaps even the Atlantic shorelines where the loop current turns north and runs up the eastern coast.

Take action to prevent this happening again.

Why are we callin it an Oil LEAK? This is a GUSHER!

This morning it dawned on me how we have all adopted the language of BP calling the one million gallon gusher a “leak.” That was clever manipulation and we all just enveloped it. We need to call it what it is, a gusher!

Is anyone questioning that sawing off the “leaking cap” and then placing a small containment valve over it, might also not work, leaving a gaping pipe opening so that more oil and gas can rocket from below the ocean floor?

Read these links for thought provoking consequences:

Society of Wetland Scientists

“The impacts of the current oil spill are unknown but the potential for direct and indirect environmental damage to coastal ecosystem services are extraordinary. Both the oil and the activities used in the cleanup have the potential to adversely affect wetland flora and fauna.”

Natural Resource Defense Council

“The health consequences of this aquatic nightmare have just begun.”

Ocean Conservancy

“The presence of submerged oil might explain why what we see falls short of expectations of what an oil disaster looks like. Then again, much of what lies beneath the ocean’s surface defies expectation. In those unseen depths is the source that sustains us with the food, oxygen and the climate we need to survive.”

A jewel of nature: in the path of the Oil Spill?

Pensacola, Florida. Santa Rosa Island. Gulf Shores National Seashore. Observed wildlife: dozens of spotted eagle rays skimming along the shoreline; dolphins pursuing schools of silver mullet offshore; two small loggerhead turtles bobbing along (looking for a place to come ashore tonight under the moonlight – to lay her eggs?). Least terns dive-bombing over white sands under translucent green seas, a small fish for breakfast; 14 brown pelicans, gulls, and two black skimmers with long jaws dropped to scoop up the least terns meal; and one handsome man from Scotland who showed me how to find small, whole sand dollars.

I cannot tolerate the idea that a black tide is on the way here. I pray that it does not so that our shores can provide accommodation for wildlife on the move from the tragedy happening in Louisiana. But I am probably too optimistic. For today I thank God for the Gulf – a nursery and a home to creatures big and small and innocent to our machinations. See links on this site for updates on the spill in our region: Oil Spill Academic Task Force, Skytruth.org.

For now this jewel of nature’s creation persists….

Oil Spill Perspectives

Most of us have copious information about the oil spill (I think we can agree that GOBS MORE oil is spilling into the Gulf waters than we have been told by BP and by the EPA. Go to links on this blog for more accurate estimates).

The impacts are starting to show up in Louisiana and threatening Alabama and Florida. Things are not static this time of year with the tropical storm season and strong south easterly winds and thus currents. We can only guess what is happening to plankton and all the vulnerable life underneath the surface, out of site. It has to be devastating.

What has been growing in my mind is much greater than the stats on this spill, though important. What I am thinking about is how we make (or don’t get a chance to make) decisions about our technologies, even at the origin when inventors are “out there” thinking up stuff. Right now the values that underpin most of our biggest industries are based on providing a natural resource or product from it that has been evaluated to make a lot of money for its creators and sellers. Our principle is: if it can be made and make money, make it! Figure out later if it is harmful in which case the American citizen or the natural systems that support us will take the blows, and while down, have to wage a near impossible battle to bring the barons to court. Even then there is no certainty justice will be done.

What if there was much more thought on the front end of the process where we carefully consider the impacts on the health and well being of our people and all the wildlife and natural systems that produce health and wealth? And what if we did something revolutionary and base our decisions on a set of conditions that assures we don’t harm the Earth and thus ourselves since we are one community, interlinked?

Consider what Wendell Berry suggests are bad solutions to problems versus a good solution:

“A bad solution is bad because it acts destructively upon the larger patterns in which it is contained. It acts destructively upon those patterns most likely, because it is formed in ignorance or disregard of them.” ~ p. 137 The Gift of Good Land

“A good solution is good, on the contrary, “because it is in harmony with those larger patterns.”

Good solutions:

  1. Accept given limits
  2. Accept the limits of discipline (i.e. agricultural problems are solved by agriculture not technology, etc.
  3. Improve the balances, symmetries, or harmonies within a pattern
  4. Solve more than one problem
  5. Will satisfy a whole range of criteria
  6. Embody a clear distinction between the biological and the mechanical
  7. Have wide margins
  8. Answer the question, “how much is enough?”
  9. Should be cheap and should not enrich one person by the distress or impoverishment of another
  10. Exist in proof
  11. Imitate the structure of natural systems
  12. Are good for all parts of a system
  13. Preserve the integrity and pattern that contains it
  14. Are in harmony with good character, cultural value, and moral law~ pp 141-145 Ibid

In 1970 during the oil crisis of that day, President Carter was laughed at for his efforts to develop energy independence by switching to alternatives such as wind, solar, and geothermal sources. What stopped all that effort, removed the electric car from the road?

Simply, greed. Could that be why we have an incredible 3500 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and 1500 miles of pipeline criss crossing the ocean floor in a hurricane prone zone. Follow the money and you will discover the reasons why we do most of what we do in America. Our bottom line is STILL profit. Preoccupation with the market and belief in it, which is a metaphysical movement unnamed as such, is driving us to the edge of environmental degradation after which no one can really predict outcomes – exactly where we are with this oil spill.

See the Lindbergh Foundation website. They support innovative research that establishes a healthy balance between technological development and preservation of the Earth’s ecosystems. Click on each of the funded scientists and educators whose work they are supporting to understand the concept that Wendall Berry was getting at. We need a lot more of this kind of thinking!

Read Barry Lopez to understand what it means to live connected to everything around us, our own nature knit tightly into the fabric of all the creation.

For a very thoughtful article by Joshua Reichert of PEW Environmental Group published in the Miami Herald, “The Future of Oil and Water.”

Trajectories on the Oil Spill From Florida State University

Go to the link for Oil Spill Academic Task Force (see link on this site) and click on Projections. Also, here is a direct link to one window showing forecasted current action and trajectory.  It shows the oil spill going directly onto the  Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama coastlines. It is staying away from the Florida’s panhandle region so far. That is just one day’s current. With southerly flows that could shift to the east. Also, here you can see actual reports of dead or injured wildlife and sightings of oil spill conglomerates on or near beaches through Skytruth.org.

Last night I walked on Pensacola Beach at the Ft. Pickens Entrance Area and found clean beaches except for a pompano that was washed up on shore with no apparent injury to its body on the exterior. Also noticed at the high tide level, taletell black and gray coloration left in the sand. This could be normal from rough seas. The pompano on the beach can also be just normal stuff. But I feel that I want to start reporting whatever I can.I found a clump of very dark stuff that had a lot of plant material in it. Did not smell oily and I think I have seen this kind of stuff before under normal conditions.

Lots of people walking on the beaches. They are gorgeous and so far there is little sign of any impact on the area.

Following the Facts on the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill

Last Saturday I attended a public forum at the Hilton on Pensacola Beach, sponsored by the Oil Spill Academic Task Force – a consortium of Florida Universities that has come together to support agencies and the public with scientific analysis of data independently collected by the member institutions’  scientists. See adjacent links.

I think it is very important to gather facts independent of the media or BP sites. Use this information to ask your own questions. You will find numerous links on the OSATF site.

During this meeting, Dr. Ian MacDonald (Florida State University) and Dr. Richard Snyder (University of West Florida) gave presentations on their data. MacDonald showed evidence of almost 20,000 barrels a day of spill – much greater than what BP originally reported. His evidence was gathered with satellite imaging.

Dr. Snyder discussed the nature of sheen and how as a very thin layer of oil it could potentially evaporate in the warmth of the sun and how microbial digestion would also be able to eliminate much of it. However, he cautioned that as currents change or choppy seas increase, this thin layer can bunch together and become thicker. As it moves into our marshes and intercoastal waterways, the lack of oxygen in estuarine waters (anerobic conditions) will reduce the level of microbial action that could break down the toxic goo.

Another issue is the dispersant that BP is spraying into the midlevel of the undersea column of oil that is unfortunately toxic to plankton and wildlife. The Red Snapper and other species that release their eggs into the water are subject to a possible generational loss if eggs drift into the oil spill area – which is predicted.

We are not sure exactly how it will all play out, but we know with certainty that you cannot release that much oil into an ecosystem without consequences. Citizens must act and must ask a lot of questions.

One that a woman asked was: “Why are there no images of the oil spill under the water? Who is keeping them out of the media?”

Another: “Who decided to use dispersant and will it continue to be used?”

And of course the one we all would like an answer to: “Will BP be able to stop the spill? What happens if it goes on indefinitely?”

That one I don’t even want to contemplate.

We learned that tar balls may only reach our shores if they roll up on the Continental Shelf. Much of the heavier oil deposits are expected to sink to deeper areas of the Gulf ocean floor. What we know will happen is that as we get closer to summer months, the winds shift to southerly flow which will bring the oil spill into the Gulf coastal communities.

We may not see the like of an Exxon Valez spill on our beautiful beaches, but our wildlife, fishermen and industry, our tourism, and our health will be impacted, especially if the spill continues.

One of the professors said this: “Essentially we are asking the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem to clean up our mess.”

The value of ecosystem services has rarely figured into American business plans, principally because they would tip the profit margin toward unfeasibility. That would also require that people regard these ecosystems and the living communities that make them viable and renewable as equal in rights to the our own species. Up till now, most Americans think that a ridiculous notion.

Perhaps we will reconsider it.

Passages and Oil Spills

While the Deep Water Horizon platform exploded and began to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico, my loved one lay in the ICU suffering from post heart surgery from which she never recovered. She died on April 27 at 3:43 pm. I know because I was there with her, my other sister and her daughter. We were the ones who would escort my older sister to places beyond our reach. We navigated terrifying medical procedures, tubes, drains, trachs and vents, dialysis machines, and watched my sister’s body swell beyond belief, turn red and raw; we gently kissed the scabs and bruises on her arms and hands that crusted over or oozed with edema. On her last day of life the sheets were soaked from her body fluid oozing out of every pore. The machines peeped and winked; the vent breathed in and out from a taped area around my sweet sister’s neck. I wondered, Does it hurt, Bev? But she could not answer me, rendered speechless for a month, with only mouthing which we could not lipread and which toward the end was not even possible. I kept a piece of computer paper on which my brilliant, accomplished sister struggled to write a message but it is only scribbles that run eventually off the paper…

It has been one week now and she has been cremated and her remains await her family to scatter in her favorite places. We gave her a wonderful memorial at which her friends assembled and many from my family including my son and daughter. While together we held each up somewhat, when we separated I felt the vast pain and sadness that washed up against my chest like a sea pushing against pilings.

Meantime the oil continued to billow into the ocean waters of the Gulf which my sister loved, and it crept toward the crystal white beaches on which we sat watching a green translucent sea lap against the snow-white sand. Langdon Beach with brioche and coffee…our habit….

The Gulf is lying as she did, helpless to an approaching disaster, with concerned people all around whose efforts cannot prevent something set in motion that cannot be undone.  I walk the shores weeping for Bev as I weep for dolphins and schools of silver pompano and the microbial hordes whose haven, the waves, will soon be something like a wrath – innocent to the machinations of a misdirected culture.

Was the medical treatment of my sister also misdirected? Invasive, entirely without humanity, all numbers and organs and technology in the name of life.

Why can’t I help thinking my sister died an early death as the beaches on the Gulf will, too, from events so complex and indirectly applied as to cloud our perception?

Now I know what it is to feel totally helpless.