Letter from the Editor

| July 01, 2010

I am fairly obsessed with the destruction being wreaked on the habitat and waters of the Gulf by the BP oil spill. My family and I have been going to the coast for 25 years to fish, kayak, swim, and lie on the beach — from Perdido Key to Apalachicola.

I'm concerned because I love the Gulf Coast and I hate the images of destruction I'm seeing on the news and the Internet. I have friends who live there year-round, and I've watched them weather hurricanes, the bursting of the housing bubble, and now this ecological nightmare.

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We haven't canceled our annual Gulf vacation. We're going the first week of July — rain, shine, tarballs, or whatever. We'll hit the beach if we can. We'll bike and hike and kayak the lakes, if the oil has moved in. We'll spend our money where our hearts are. A week later, we'll be back in Memphis, but the oil will still be flowing and those living along the Gulf will keep suffering.

And sadly, I think we're probably just beginning to discover the possible scope of the spill damages. High levels of benzene and hydrogen sulfide have been detected in the air at several testing stations in the Gulf. Both gases pose serious health risks for humans. And BP is pouring thousands of gallons of the oil dispersant Corexit into the Gulf every day — a chemical that is banned in 18 countries because of its lethal effects on plant and animal life.

As these chemicals work themselves into the food chain, the results could be catastrophic for ocean life and the birds (and humans) who feed on sea life. The government will need to closely monitor the levels of toxins in our seafood, a task made more difficult by the intense lobbying against "scare tactics" by the tourism and seafood industries.

Is there any good news? Probably not in the short term. But it helps to remember that the Mississippi River deposits around 285 billion gallons of water into the Gulf of Mexico every day, a figure that easily dwarfs the 1.5 million gallons of oil coming from the Deepwater Horizon spill. It's small comfort, but nature scoffs at our puny human perspective.

I am reminded of the classic George Carlin routine: "The planet has been through a lot worse than us. ... The planet will be here, and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas."

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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Comments (2)

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Bruce,

I think it's okay to be obsessed about something you love. As an environmental scientist I can back up your claims about the environment easily fixing this in the long term. At times I could strangle liberals for getting all chicken little over issues that once real science is applied, are not that big at all.

While it is absolutely true that man cannot destory or even alter the overall path the Earth is going, we have a moral responsibility in the short run also to protect what our neighbors cherish.

Economically this will help the economy. Disasters and wars always do. I know that people in my industry (water purification) are raking in a bounty, hiring people and buying equipment.

The shame of this is that hte bug guys, liberal and conservatives didn't look after us.

Environmentalists need to abandon their push to send rigs out so far and deep. Oil men need to spend the money up front on safeguards. Our government, President included needs to come clean that we have exploited the Arabs. We have supported dictators so that we could buy cheap and keep our stuff in the ground. YOU think of all the infrastructure that could have been built over the last 50 years and wasily can envision an educated, Middle East with a fondness for the America that bought oil, built schools, hospitals, movie theaters and all the other comforts that we enjoy here.

However, we don't have an addiction to oil Bruce, we have a life built around and bettered by the chemistry of long cyclical carbon chains. Life is all about that little hexagon.

Right now, there is no substitute that can provide these carbon chains.
Will one be found before oil is too costly and scarce? Necessity is the MOther of invention, so me? I'll be on God and just as he puts cherries on teh trees, he puts brilliant minds on earth to keeps us rolling smrtly along.

In the meantime, the Gulf Coast is a mess because a bunch of politicians, environmentalists and oil men couldn't and wouldn't give an inch for us.

Oil isn't a pollutant. The people that buy and sell it are the pollutants.



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Posted by Tommy Volinchak on 07/08/2010 at 12:39 AM

Environmentalists need to abandon their push to send rigs out so far and deep.

I think by "Environmentalists" you might mean "beach-front property owners"

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Posted by wvfii on 07/08/2010 at 8:17 AM
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