Galveston Bay Oil Spill: A Lesson In a Series of Lessons

Categories: Environment

U.S. Coast Guard
Lessons still go unlearned.
Mark Twain's declaration that "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme" is an appropriate and memorable reminder in the wake of the March 24, Galveston Bay oil spill. It's one more prompt that environmental abuses, whether by negligence, human error, or political gain, need our attention now.

Not only does this disaster affect the economy, with many local bay businesses losing up to a thousand dollars a day during peak tourist season, but the long term damage to wildlife and the bay itself will take many years to calculate.

Sadly, the last five days of reporting featured more news articles of the spill's dollars and cents effect, than the irreversible environmental impact to the area.

The timing of the bay's accident couldn't have been more ironic. It was the 25th anniversary of one of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez oil spill. On the same day in 1989, a 987-foot-long oil tanker ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

The Exxon Valdez spill held the dubious honor of the worst spill in U.S. history until BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. A mere ten days ago, BP was granted permission to seek new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was opportune to reiterate what most of us already know: "The burning of coal, oil and gas is producing an increasing amount of heat-trapping temperatures and more extreme weather, and the problem is worsening.

What the IPCC discovered is that America's love affair with fossil fuels impacts, not only our waterways, but our air, our health, our food and even our human relationships. A most recent study from USC shows a link between autism and air pollution. Could there be a link to autism and Houston's reputation for poor air quality? According to Texas Children's Hospital it's unclear how many autism cases exist in Houston, but TCH says they care for about 1,000 kids a year with the disorder.

These incidents, along with the recent research, lead us to an inevitable conclusion.

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You started with Mark Twain (good) but end with George Santayana, even though the sayings are directly contradictory.

The hue and cry is sort of hypocritical. The fact is, the bay has been the victim of an untold number of oil spills from people's driveways, leaking gas station tanks, legal refinery discharges, etc (for example, look at the tainted soil in the way of an east side light rail underpass, the source of which no one seems interested in finding out). No question this is a serious disaster but to overlook people's direct complicity in the ongoing pollution of the bay and beach is disingenuous. This collective pollution is probably far greater than the serious pollution caused by this one incident. The undeniable economic growth of the Houston area is used as a vindication for pro-sprawl policies that waste enormous amounts of energy and are unsustainable even if gas remains cheap.

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