Saturday, June 19, 2010

More Harm Than Good?

I have been hearing quite a bit recently, particularly on NPR, that part of the clean-up efforts aimed at saving wildlife covered in oil, are either useless or actually do more harm than good. In particular, studies conducted after the Exxon Valdez oil spill (which was a spill; what is happening in the Gulf is an on-going leak) show that the vast majority of those animals cleaned and released died pretty quickly anyway, either because of the shock of being covered in oil, the shock of the cleaning process, ingesting vast amounts of petro-chemicals, or a combination thereof.

Yet, a story last night on the inherent dangers of trying to save every little bird covered in oil - pointing out that attempting to reach a nest with a bird covered in oil disturbs a dozen or even two dozen nests, wreaking far more havoc than any good that might accrue from cleaning the one bird), had one person interviewed saying that, "No one wants to make those decisions," which roughly translates to, "No one wants the poor little birdies or turtles to die! WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!"

Except, sometimes "doing something" - like the endless complaints concerning the Obama Administration - really amount to bupkus when pressed. Yes, it is quite sad that thousands of animals will die despite our every effort to save them. If we are expending resources in a futile effort to save wildlife, it seems to me that we might better spend that money in other ways, not the least of them being ensuring that the piles of dead animals, the destroyed ecosystem, the destitute shrimpers and other fishermen, the tourist economies that are bereft of any money this summer does not happen again.

I also heard a report, on Talk of the Nation Science Friday, that, in the particular case of the clean-up effort in Alaska, the use of high-pressure hot water to clean the rocky shoreline, ended up driving the oil in to the subsoil; the result is that shallow-water clam beds, an essential part of the tidal ecosystem, will probably never root there again, or at any rate not, perhaps, for centuries.

So, not only are we seriously screwing things up for the next few months; in the process of trying to "do something" to make it all better, we might end up making it far worse long after our great-grandchildren are gone.

Another thank you to BP.

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