By Rachel Birdsell
It’s been three years since the BP oil spill. Three years since we were all glued to the news waiting for the word that the leak had finally been capped. Three years since we watched in horror as animals washed to shore covered in muck. And how many times have we seen it in the news since then? How much have we been told about the effects of the spill? Once it dropped off the front page, we all went back to our busy lives, thankful that the disaster was over. Once the oil stopped gushing, we didn’t have to worry about it anymore. It was over, finished, complete. Except it wasn’t, and it still isn’t.
Three years after the spill, the dispersant Corexit which was used to sink the oil to the bottom of the ocean is still poisoning the gulf. BP executives assured us that Corexit was as safe as dish washing liquid. In truth, it’s toxic, and when combined with crude oil, the toxicity is multiplied. The EPA tells us that the long-term effects of Corexit aren’t known, which makes me wonder why in the hell they allowed it to be used. While we may not know what the long-term effects are, we are seeing what the short-effects are. Shrimp that are not only eyeless, but are lacking eye sockets, are being pulled out of the gulf. Crabs are dying from the inside out. They are still alive, but when caught and cut open, are rotten on the inside. Some crabs are clawless; others have soft shells when they shouldn’t. Net after net of fish with oozing sores, lesions and tumors are being hauled in. BP is trying to convince us that they are committed to the gulf. We’re just supposed to smile and put our cares in their large, oily hands.
It’s not just the marine life that is suffering. Jamie Griffin was working on a “floating hotel” feeding cleanup workers during the spill. The workers would leave a trail of oily gunk on the floor that they tracked in on their boots. Jamie was told by a BP representative to “just mop it like you’d mop any other dirty floor”. No matter what she tried: boiling water, Pine-Sol, Dawn, the slime remained. Within days, Jamie began coughing up blood and had constant headaches. She soon began experiencing short-term memory loss, swollen ankles, nerve pain and muscle spasms that paralyzed and disfigured her hands.
I suppose it’s easier to ignore the effects of the spill. If we actually had to face what we’re doing to our planet, we’d have to take responsibility and make changes. Instead we keep up with what celebrity is pregnant, or which Kardashian is getting married. I’m not saying that we can’t talk about these things. We need some mindless entertainment to distract us from time to time. But when we use that distraction to obliterate what’s really going on, we have a problem.
The first phase of the court case to decide if BP was responsible for the spill ended last month. It could be another year before the judge hands down his ruling. If found guilty BP will have to pay fines up to $21 billion. Fortunately for them, they aren’t short of cash. Unfortunately for us, they are short of a conscience.
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org