Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Dead Dolphins and Turtles in the Gulf a Harbinger of Things to Come

Nearly one year after the BP Deepwater disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, dead dolphins and sea turtles continue to wash up on the shore:

(Reuters) – Scientists confirmed on Thursday that they have discovered oil on dead dolphins found along the U.S. Gulf Coast, raising fresh concerns about the effects of last year’s BP oil spill on sea life.

Fifteen of the 406 dolphins that have washed ashore in the last 14 months had oil on their bodies, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said during a conference call with reporters.

The oil found on eight of those dolphins has been linked to the April 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists said.

“It is significant that even a year after the oil spill we are finding oil on the dolphins, the latest just two weeks ago,” said Blair Mase, southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

Since mid-March, 87 dead sea turtles have also been found, although no visible traces of oil have been discovered on the carcasses, said Barbara Schroeder, NOAA Fisheries national sea turtle coordinator. …

In February, NOAA declared “an unusual mortality event” after a spike in the number of dead dolphins washing up in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

There have been 153 deaths this year, 65 of them newly born or stillborn calves, NOAA officials said on Thursday.

Before addressing the obvious concern regarding BP’s disastrous role in destroying the Gulf ecosystem, it is worth pointing out that the spate of dead dolphins actually began two months’ prior to the BP spill.  What exactly was causing these dolphins to die?  Obviously, the occasional finding of a dolphin carcass would be no cause for concern, and undoubtedly happens for natural reasons.  But to suggest that the rate of 406 dolphins over 14 months (some 29 dolphins per month) had begun some two months before the BP disaster raises some serious questions that need to be addressed.

Clearly, the impact of human behavior on the natural world has far greater consequences than even the most pessimistic among us have tended to imagine.   What we see here is that, even before the BP incident, changes to the local ecosystem – undoubtedly caused by human activities – had already led to devastating consequences.  The BP spill undoubtedly accelerated this trend, and it is likely that we may never know the extent of the damage.

The lesson should be clear for all:  we need to kick our addiction to fossil fuels once and for all, and finally move into the era of green, sustainable energy.  The warning signs are becoming increasingly evident, and there is no guarantee that we haven’t already passed the tipping point in terms of irrevocable environmental devastation.  But it should be readily apparent to all that the days of carefree, effortless consumption of fossil fuels have long passed.  Oil in particular is becoming more and more difficult to obtain – as the BP disaster amply demonstrated – and indications are mounting that we have already surpassed – or at least are rapidly approaching – peak oil.

Of course, current power structures all but guarantee that the move to renewable energy sources will not come until the last bit of oil and coal have been harvested, regardless of the environmental cost.  More and more coal plants – as are being built both in the U.S. and, more disturbingly, in China – will lead to an accelerated greenhouse effect, along with dreadfully polluted air and water.  The ongoing harvesting of oil will mean the destruction of great swathes of wilderness, including ANWR in Alaska, and the impending switch to the oil sands of Canada will reek untold havoc on the environment there.

The consequences for future generations will be drastic, perhaps such that we can scarcely even imagine them.  Already, models for human-induced climate change have proven to be woefully inaccurate, greatly underestimating the impact of human activities on the speed of its progress.  But the modern centers of power – the Corporation – care only about maximizing short-term profits, and even though immense initial profits could be garnered from a Green revolution, the modern corporatocracy prefers to stick with the tried and true methods of old, so change will not come until the last bit of oil has been extracted, and the last morsel of coal has been burned.

And we all suffer in consequence.

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2 responses to “Dead Dolphins and Turtles in the Gulf a Harbinger of Things to Come

  1. Pingback: BP Disaster Demonstrates Urgent Need for Renewable Energy « Failed Empire

  2. Pingback: BP Disaster Highlights Urgent Need for Renewable Energy « Failed Empire

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