What did oil spill teach us?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2012

Two years ago, in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, those of us who have spent our lives in proximity to the Gulf of Mexico feared we’d never again see our beloved Gulf as we have always known it.

Scientists made dire predictions. There were those who believed that if the oil spill didn’t kill the Gulf, the cleanup efforts would.

Alabama marine biologist Dr. Bob Shipp, a recognized expert on the Gulf, decried the use of chemical dispersants to clean up the surface, predicting that the toxins would settle on the ocean floor, permeate the food web, and have increased effects as they moved up the food chain.

The short-term effects were devastating to the coastal economy. Tourism and the seafood industry are still recovering from the problems caused by the oil spill in 2010.

And while it may be decades before we know the extent of the oil spill’s effect on our beautiful Gulf and the thousands of marine species therein, most of us would agree that things are better today than we dared dream they would be two years ago.

Just as we are years away from knowing the full impact, we also do not know why the Gulf is as healthy as it is. Perhaps BP’s massive clean-up efforts helped. Perhaps nature is in the process of healing herself. Perhaps the countless prayers whispered for the health of the Gulf and our environment were answered.

Regardless, the anniversary, two days before Earth Day 2012, is a reminder that each of us has an obligation to be a good steward of the Earth.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill could have been avoided if safety had been placed before profit. For our parts, being aware of our carbon footprints and cautious of our consumption of energy can help the Earth be healthier longer.

In Andalusia, we have no excuse not to recycle paper, cardboard, aluminum and plastic. With a simple phone call, a free recycling bag will be delivered to our doors, and recyclables will be picked up weekly with our trash. Every piece of aluminum or plastic kept out of a landfill contributes to the health of our environment.

Yes, the oil spill could have been avoided, but so can lots of other damage to this Earth we call home. As we mark these two important dates this weekend, we are hopeful that the anniversary of the oil spill will help us better understand what Earth Day is about.