One year ago today: anniversary coverage of the BP spill

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Amid news coverage of the one-year anniversary of the Gulf spill, Democracy Now! devoted its entire program today (besides headlines) to various aspects of the aftermath that are still ongoing. Segments include an interview with an ecologist on continuing environmental damage; the continued effects on Gulf communities — including the emergence of health problems and related deaths; the renewed awarding of deepwater drilling permits by the US government; and an interview with the father of one of the workers who was killed when the platform blew up. The video above is the entire show (click the lower right corner to watch the full-screen version); individual segments may be read or watched here on the DM! homepage.

Elsewhere on the web, CBSnews.com highlighted vigils held for the oil rig workers who were killed, noting that some of the families went on a flyover of the rig site sponsored by Transocean, which did not allow media to come along. The article notes that, “all is not bleak. Beaches, restaurants and hotels are filling up again, and experts say the resilient Gulf is on the mend,” and quotes Barak Obama as saying, “We continue to hold BP and other responsible parties fully accountable for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused.” But if you read Planet Waves on Monday or take a look at some of the alt-media coverage, it is clear the tourists filling those hotels are visiting an area that is still struggling. And Obama’s claim sounds a bit hollow given the excruciatingly slow — and for some, perhaps hopeless — reparation process, never mind his decision to resume awarding deepwater drilling permits.

As Rabbi Edward Cohn of the Temple Sinai in New Orleans said at a candle-lit vigil just after sunrise, “Our souls are slumbering in moral indifference. People quite rightly are asking: How and when, and by whose insistence and stubborn support, will the public’s mind be refocused upon what happened in the Gulf?”

Over on Deep Sea News, Dr. Bik writes, “From scientists’ perspective, last year’s massive oil spill only just unlocked gates of Hades; the full fury and environmental wrath of this catastrophe will besiege the Gulf for years to come.” This is unlikely to surprise most of us reading here. But what may be a bit surprising is just how little scientific data is available on the subject. She lists a few other good sites covering the spill anniversary, then continues:

I will tell you that science is still suffering. We still have very little available data to assess the effects of the spill. Publications are appearing (slowly), but many important results are currently embargoed (because of litigation and the government’s NRDA process) [Natural Resource Damage Assessment] or unpublished and thus scattered across many labs. Because I’m not seeing the publications, I still don’t really know who is doing what at the moment. I could find out if I really needed to, but this would involve many hours, possibly days, of trawling the internet and oil spill database resources to read up on various projects. I have over 4 million DNA sequences from the Gulf, so data analysis kind of needs to take priority nowadays (although that gives me an idea for an undergrad project this summer—prepping a Vogue-esque slideshow of who’s who and who’s doing what in oil spill research).

Then there’s the funding. Our NSF RAPID grant was only funded for an initial 1-year period. That means we run out of money in August, despite having accumulated over 200 pre and post-spill samples that are nowhere near fully analysed (or extracted…or sequenced…).

So despite the high-profile nature of this event and its anniversary, the scientists we depend on to tell us how bad it is and what can be done apparently have their hands tied to a degree. And meanwhile HuffPo is shining some light on what BP is spending money on again: campaign contributions. Micheal McAuliff writes there, “A year after BP’s catastrophic Gulf oil spill, the petroleum giant is easing its way back into the political money race — and the stain of shame candidates originally felt about accepting the company’s contributions appears to have evaporated.”

Despite getting approximately 700,000 google hits for ‘gulf of mexico oil spill anniversary bp’ (without using quotes) at the time of this writing, it would seem Rabbi Cohn is right: collectively our souls are in fact still slumbering in moral indifference. Or at least, enough are to make life very difficult on this planet — and for this planet. And as one news story pointed out this week, all of the oil companies are as worthy of scrutiny and regulation as BP, since they are all using the same insufficient technology. We need to keep an eye out for red herrings when it comes to issues like this. Otherwise we end up with dead herrings, and worse.

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