While many of us were reminded this weekend that winter is not over, we also got some stark reminders that the effects of the claimed earlier this month that compensation was going out at a reasonable rate, and that people were being paid to a scale commensurate to a recovery of the gulf economy by 2012: “Mr Feinberg said experts have determined that most of the oil would have dispersed and the economy picked up by the end of next year. There will be a 30% recovery in 2011, he added.”are not over either. Unfortunately, the debates about the effects of the spill, which began in April 2010 and was not capped until September, fall along rather obvious lines, with BP arguing the recovery is well under way. And on the surface, it seems to be. But what is out of sight/out of mind?The man appointed to pay out the millions of dollars of claims by residents of the Gulf of Mexico, attorney Kenneth Feinberg,
He also admitted that the oyster population, and oyster-harvesting, would take longer to recover. Thus fishing families in that industry would be paid four times their losses for 2010.
Not only were his numbers questioned, his status as a spokesperson on the issue has also been challenged. US District Judge Carl Barbier ordered Mr. Feinberg to disclose his relationship to BP in all his public statements, to ensure that people do not perceive him as a neutral party. Judge Barbier called Mr. Fienberg’s entity a “hybrid entity” attached to BP yet speaking as if a disinterested arbiter.
The BBC did not go into detail as why less than one-fourth of the $20-billion fund had been dispersed as of February 1st, though it appears many locals refused to sign away their future rights to speak out to receive the one-time payout.
The BBC also reported over the weekend on the findings of Samantha Joye, marine biologist at the University of Georgia, who has spent time at the bottom of the Gulf. Though she described the Gulf of Mexico as ‘resilient,’ she presented visual evidence of the devastation at the deeper regions of the ocean.
The impact on the benthos was devastating. Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans – all of those were substantially impacted – and by impacted, I mean essentially killed.
Another critical point is that detrital feeders like sea cucumbers, brittle stars that wander around the bottom, I didn’t see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives. They’re typically everywhere, and we saw none. (quoted from The BBC)
These plants and animals are essential for the ecosystem as many of them filter the water for food or ingest dead animal matter on the ocean’s floor. Many of them sit literally and figuratively at the bottom of the food chain, which means their virtual extinction will ripple upwards (literally and figuratively) over the next number of years.
As of our posting, Professor Joye’s findings have not gotten much attention in the US press yet (being a notable exception). The striking thing about the reports of her findings, though, is that she clearly does not come across as an anti-business environmentalist. She readily concedes the work done by oil-eating microbes, at least at the higher levels of the water. She believes the Gulf ecosystem will recover, too. But closer to 2022 than 2012.
Indeed, the full extent of the damage, not the recovery, might be the story in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012.