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Things are oil wrong

July 2, 2010

Typical toxic runoff from a farm

Imagine you are a pocket of nitrates. As runoff from a poultry farm in Iowa, you now find yourself in the mighty Mississippi River, the drainage basin for more than half of these United States. On your journey south, you meet up with phosphates and your old friend Roundup. Gaily you soak in the soothing waters of the river, no longer able to flood the banks in the spring because of man-made levees. For more than 1,000 miles, you travel unimpeded to Venice, Louisiana, at the mouth of the river, picking up speed and particulates along the way.  Congratulations.  You have reached the Gulf of Mexico and, if it’s sometime during the month of August, one of the largest aquatic dead zones in the world: in 2007 it measured nearly 7,900 square miles, about the size of New Jersey.

Think that’s bad? Now that nitrate bundle has to contend with (a conservative estimate of) 80 million gallons of dirty crude which has poured from the Deepwater Horizon well since the oil rig exploded on April 20. The effects of this man-made disaster will have repercussions on the local economy and environment for decades to come.  The oil will remain on the surface of the water, suspended in the water column and coating the plants, all the while mixing with the pollutants which have already made their way to the Gulf from thanks to our obsession with pesticides.

66% of the grain grown in the US is used to raise livestock, most in confined animal feed lots (CAFO).  And both of these industries, grain and CAFO farms, highly prevalent in the mid-West, the heart of the Mississippi River drainage basin, are both highly subsidized and contribute massive amounts of  pollution to our air and our water.  In addition, when Hurricane Katrina hit, storm surges from both Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River flooded much of New Orleans with toxic waters containing PCBs, petrochemicals as well as lead and arsenic:

According to the EPA, agency scientists found levels of lead and arsenic at some sites in excess of drinking water standards—a potential threat given the possibility of hand-to-mouth exposure.

Katrina flood "water"

Southern Louisiana has had a long checkered history with toxic spills of all sorts: chemicaloil and man-made dispersants used to clean that very oil.  This latest spill in the Gulf is just the most recent example of the kind of catastrophe human engineering can cause in the communities and wetlands of America’s 18th state.  But her people march on, driven by hope, a love of their land and that which drives all of us: to persevere in the face of a crisis bigger than any of us.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Kel permalink
    July 6, 2010 12:46 pm

    Your words are so vivid and telling of our times. Our future and the stability of our planet – unknowns. I willingly embrace and accept the unknown. For the less we know, the more we have to learn and gain for how we react to present situations. I pray this madness ends. the push for alternative energy now more than ever. love you. love you. love you. woohoo.

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