When the cure makes it worse

Posted July 10th, 2010 by kcorliss. Comment (0).

Stories about the gulf oil disaster are legion. So much so that media interest is actually waning despite the ongoing tragedy taking place down there. It’s getting stale news-wise.

The environmental portion has focused on habitat and wildlife (mostly birds) with the usual oil-soaked bird photos accompanying each piece.

But the Drudge Report carried a different sort of story this week. It was linked from National Geographic. What set this one apart from the herd was its headline:

Gulf Oil Cleanup Crews Trample Nesting Birds

What followed was a story anyone with knowledge of coastal nesting birds could predict:

…according to conservationists, some well-meaning cleanup crews who unknowingly walk into nesting habitat may be doing more harm than the oil itself, experts say.

…But with oil encroaching on Florida’s coasts, an army of cleanup crews has descended on the seashore. About 44,300 people are now de-oiling roughly 450 miles (720 kilometers) of Gulf coastline, according to the website for the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command, the joint federal-industry task force responding to the Gulf oil spill.

With so many people working so close to breeding grounds, frightened adult birds are abandoning their nests, and adults and chicks are being inadvertently trampled.

“Most of us know that the cleanup can do more damage than the oil could ever do,” said Riley Hoggard, a resource-management specialist for Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Interesting. I think what Mr. Hoggard is trying to say–if you’ll allow me the license to postulate–is: ‘Crude oil is a naturally occurring substance and nature has its own wonderful way of living with it and dealing with it. Given time, even this disaster will heal itself despite the gross and unsightly nature of it all right now. Think long-term, not in short human-centric weeks or months or even years, but geological time. The gulf will certainly look different for awhile but years from now you’ll have to consult history books to find out what happened here. Such is the resiliency of nature.’

Should we do anything? Of course. But let’s do it smartly and with care. I’ve even run across another article (wish I could find it) which basically said it might be better if we just left everything alone.

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