In early April, organizations, like the Mississippi Delta Wildlife Refuge and the US Coast Guard, braced to deal with the effects of a 160-Square-Mile oil spill that reached the national wildlife refuge in the Delta.
Water, waves, water ~ all beautiful and powerful elements of nature. They are also the forces that will drive the slimy fingers of oil great distances through our seas and, sadly, to our shores. Oil is constantly polluting our oceans and seas from many sources including waste from offshore drilling, land drainage, tankers and recreational boating. When the oil enters the water it typically spreads out across the top (although some does sink below the surface). It can remain in one mass but tidal movements and waves can break the mass up. Over a period of time, surface oil will disintegrate at it interacts with sunlight.
But when oil enters the sea from large oil spills, as is the case with the recent BP Oil disaster, disintegration will not happen soon enough to protect thousands of marine life ~ and entire food chains can be affected having long-term consequences on marine life and fishing. And quickly, the oil mass can reach shorelines and continue to devastate the natural order.
So what happens when oil reaches land? Firstly, the oil interacts with the landscape ~ the soil, the sand, rocks and vegetation. Vegetation may not recover once it has been killed by oil. Oil is gooey and sticky and shows no mercy when it comes into contact with wildlife.
Consider the wildlife on the shores of the great Mississippi Delta. A fertile, sub-tropical environment makes the Delta home to thousands of species of wildlife and habitats, including many endangered species that are protected by various wild-life agencies. The Delta spans a great area containing many rivers and channels and tributaries, bayous, swamps and other landscapes. Over recent decades, many groups and individuals have come together to protect the wetlands of the Delta from commercial interests and draining but now the Delta faces a new threat. The animals and habitats closest to the shore are at great risk. Once they are covered in oil, many will die painful deaths if not assisted by human volunteers who will help to clean and release them.There habitats will be destroyed in many cases and food chains will be affected. Ingestion of oil has long-term consequences, as well, as it has been found to affect an animal's ability to reproduce.
The Delta is a complex environment which is home of one of the largest fishing and transportation industries. Shipping, fishing, farming, tourism and recreation are all activities that contribute to the economy of the area. It is hard to imagine the economic effects, but consider this. If Importers and exporters must re-route to other ports, eventually the added cost ends up reflected in ghigher prices on the tiems beings shipped ~ like coffee,for instance. If local tourism suffers, so too does those companies and people who cater to them, from the largest hotels to the smallest bed and breakfast. This effects local economies immediately. The fishing industry, itself, will be served a hard blow which will in turn, impact other related industries. Not one of these economic activities would be un-touched by the oil spill.
But the environmental impact will always be our shame and the shame of the oil companies who continue to risk lives of millions of animals - including humans.