Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gulf Oil Spill as a Lesson on Humans in Nature

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Gulf Oil Spill as a Lesson on Humans in Nature

Article excerpt

Save tourist beaches or marine life? Protect coastal homes or marshes for birds? Such choices during the Gulf oil spill point to a need to rethink human life on the planet -- just as the spill itself does.

Some eco-disasters are so huge they force humans to rethink how to better coexist with nature on a delicate planet. The mass killing of birds by the pesticide DDT, for instance, helped trigger the 1960s environmental movement.

Now the Gulf oil spill may be one of those moments for mass reflection.

Millions of barrels of crude oil have entered the aquatic food chain since BP's rig collapsed April 20. The spill itself is bad enough, but every day people from Florida to Texas are being forced to make difficult choices that pit the interests of humans against those of wildlife.

A few examples of this sudden triage:

Should the limited number of plastic water booms be used to protect certain endangered birds in marshes or the hatchery areas for shrimp, thus helping shrimp fisherman?

Should chemical dispersants be used to keep the oil from reaching tourist beaches even though that might then leave the oil stuck in the Gulf's depths, creating oxygen-free "dead zones" for decades?

Should government build sand barriers to protect shorelines near coastal homes or to wall off the nesting grounds of species such as Kemp's ridley turtles and the brown pelican?

One of the hardest questions is this: Will this finally spur us to cut oil consumption after witnessing one of the biggest environmental disasters in history? …

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