No stranger to disaster, Louisiana faces what may be its worst-ever coastal impact in the next 24 hours. By tomorrow, the first of millions of gallons of floating crude oil will wash ashore in Louisiana, with all five Gulf states potentially endangered in the days and weeks ahead. At immediate risk: hundreds of miles of hard-working coastline and hundreds of years of cultural dependence on coastal resources.
As oily waves roll in, rookeries will foul, fisheries smother and oysters beds be buried in a toxic emulsion. Miles of green marsh will turn black and perhaps remain so for years. This Fall, when a thousand thousand migrant birds pass through en route to South America, they’ll risk their lives just by landing. How much worse for those animals and people who live here year round? This oil may be with us, like a bad gene, for generations.
The blame and the retribution for this spill will be epic. Unlike the damage left by our 2005 hurricanes, no one disputes the man-made nature of this nightmare. Even as a nation we continue to sort out and remedy damages from Katrina and Rita; even as we pay the mortgage on the housing bust, buy up car companies and banks and fight wars on several fronts, we will begin to pay the cost of this probably inevitable mishap.
Although BP has accepted full responsibility for this spill and its unknowable after effects, don’t feel your burden lifted. If like me you drive a car or truck or tractor, enjoy your lights at night and heat in the winter; if you’re not living off the grid somewhere on well water and deer meat, be prepared to carry your share of the blame for this latest gust in a much larger storm called Hurricane Us.