During the height of this year’s monstrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we watched the oil move, and considered what the grim fate of the complex coral ecosystems a mile deep on the Gulf’s floor might be. We couldn’t see at that point what had happened to the the living creatures deep in the Gulf at that point, however, because submersible craft weren’t being sent down to bring us that sort of picture.
Now, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Lobelia II expedition has returned to the Gulf of Mexico. What they’ve found is not heartening. The expedition has come across a huge area of dead and dying corals, southwest of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling disaster site. Amidst the corals are brittle stars, which would normally have their arms outstretched to catch food particles in the water, tightly clenched around coral skeletons.
This isn’t a disaster just for the animals of the deep. It’s a disaster for the fishermen who make a living off of trawling the depths of the Gulf of Mexico as well.
What do the American people make of all this? Not much, apparently. Less than half a year after the biggest single environmental disaster in the history of the United States, in many districts, voters chose to send candidates to Washington D.C. who dismiss the gravity of the risks of offshore drilling, and push for more and more oil drilling, wherever it can be done.