Happy Reflections on Earth Day

April 22, 2011

Rheanna Sand

Well, it's that time of year again! Time to celebrate the day the Earth was born - April 22nd. Okay, it's really the anniversary of the first Earth Day held in 1970 (thank you Gaylord Nelson), but regardless, it's a day to celebrate Mother Earth. The UN says so, and so did I one year ago, so it must be true.

How to celebrate? How about by checking in on another environmental anniversary - the BP oil spill of 2010! Remember the 87 days of crude-spewing fun last summer? Most of us are probably trying to forget - but it's hard when on the day commemorating the tragedy, BP decided to sue the other companies involved for damages, and also offered up a $1 billion down payment for Gulf restoration on the likely $21 billion they will be forced to pay in the years ahead. How sweet of them, after earning record profits again last quarter.

The sad thing about the BP oil spill is that even if the affected states received all the funding they needed right away, this is not a kind of spill we have ever faced. Our fundamental lack of understanding means we have a lot of catching up to do. The oil did not just float to the surface in a bubble and evaporate away. It stayed underwater, kept down by its massive size, and transformed into giant globs of "sea snot," ensnaring animals and choking the life out of what were the most thriving and diverse parts of the Gulf.


Sampling the sea snot is hard to do. Getting five miles down to the graveyard of sludge-covered coral requires very specialized equipment. Washing crude out of dense marshes is tedious and time-consuming. The $1 billion advance will help, but will it be enough to fund clean-up and research? If we don't learn from our mistakes, how can we avoid them in the future?

Just a happy ecological thought to get you through Earth Day. You're welcome!



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