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Gulf Spill's Estimated Impact May Be More than $1.7 Billion

“If tourism losses reach 30 percent and fishing losses 80 percent -- what Addy called the worst-case scenario -- the overall economic loss would reach more than $3.3 billion, with almost 49,000 jobs wiped out and up to $150 million in state and local tax revenues not collected” (Woodruff, By Cosby). The British Petroleum oil spill is measured as a cost in monetary value. However, it is more than that. It is a failure of policy. An act of greed. A disrespect of life itself.

Rebecca Solnit has shed light on all the widespread repercussions of the British oil spill in her article entitled ‘Diary’. She has effectively used pathos as well as ethos to communicate her claim and I strongly agree that the combination of both these is necessary to explain such an issue. Moreover, she has mentioned first hand and gathered insight from the ground workers themselves. Thus, I support her approach on the issue.

The article, based on the writer’s personal experience, has the appeal to ethos as well as pathos right in the opening paragraph which immediately identifies that the writers is well-informed and is absolutely clear about her approach to the argument. This method is reasonably effective to explain an environmental issue because such issues inherently involve both the use of facts as well as an appeal to ones feelings.

The article starts by a vivid description of the most perfect environment to live in, with ‘oak trees’, ‘Spanish moss and Mardi grass beads’,’ beautiful old houses with turrets’ and most importantly, ‘no refineries’ for miles.  Suddenly, the reader is engaged with an abrupt transition from the thoughts of the heavenly abode to the bitter reality, that is, of the existence of ‘powerful smell of gasoline’ and a ‘strange metallic taste in ones mouth’. Here, the writer has effectively gained the reader’s attention by reminding them that the even the most serene environments, free from massive development, are negatively affected by the BP oil spills.

Moreover, the writer also pinpoints the inadequate measures taken by the authorities in regard to the spills. She reminds the reader of the fact that the tragic incident of the British Petroleum oil spill was only catered for or more appropriately, temporarily unplugged, in mid-July. Millions of gallons of oil was still floating in the ocean and travelling in the air.

 She also highlights the fact that the handout published by the Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency was unhelpful. Furthermore, it provided evidence of the policy maker’s indifference as the handout bluntly stated ‘These effects should go away when levels go down or when a person leaves the area’. However, she presents a weak argument to support her assertion. The fact that a birdwatcher, Drew Wheelan, wrote on his blog, ‘that 20 hours later my mouth and tongue still feel as though they’ve been burned by a hot liquid’, does not provide concrete evidence that the effects ward off with distance. It might just be a fictitious claim or an attempt to generate negative propaganda. If the claim was verifiable or has she been able to establish Drew Wheelan as a reliable source, than the case might have been in her favour.

The writer has accommodated all class of people being affected by the environmental damage in her article to highlight the widespread affects of the spills. She writes. ‘ it’s home, for pregnant women, for children, for old people who’ve spent their entire lives here, for people who love the place passionately  … And for countless birds, fish, crustaceans, cetaceans and other ocean life. The spill has hit them all hard’. Here, the use of pathos is again very effective as she instantly strikes an emotional cord when she mentions that people of all age group, gender and medical condition are adversely affected by the traumatic repercussions of the oil spill.

Her approach to the oil spill being better explained as synonymous to a blowout on policy also identifies her deep understating of the widespread repercussions of the issue. She claimed that she also saw the pictures of oiled pelicans like the others, but insists that the sensitivity of the issue is far complex than just a spill causing threat to life (human and animal both). It is actually a failure of policy under ‘the Bush-era corruption that turned the Minerals Management Service into a crony-ridden camp’. Here again, she has been able to highlight another flaw in the system which most of the articles on environmental damage fail to account for.

Along with highlighting the failure of the companies and policies involved, she has also pointed the general apathy and ignorance of the people. She emphasized that petrol is part of our daily life, we are well aware of the threats posed, but never bother. Thus, she has rightfully held both profit oriented companies and people responsible for the hazards. This also adds complexity to her approach on the issue and makes it more appropriate.

Most of the facts mentioned have been gathered through reliable sources like CNN and the employees themselves. For example, she mentions the BP clean up worker who quit because he was asked to only remove the surface sand. Similarly, another worker was fired on questioning over the clean up process and keeping the media at bay. Workers had to sign non-disclosure agreements and all their recording technologies were confiscated. All these provide evidence that the BP was well aware of the health and environmental violations but displayed unexplainable apathy.

Perhaps the strongest argument presented by the author is the comparison between natural and technological disasters. She explains that hurricanes come, wreck and are soon over. Hurricane Katrina alone led to eight million gallons of petroleum being spilled. However, the damage was rectified. However, the damage posed by technological disasters like meltdowns, contaminations and toxic spills can neither be measured and nor be controlled. Effectively Building her argument further, she explains that ‘uncertainty has been central to the horror of spills’ as ‘the spill has no clear termination, no precedent, there’s little that ordinary people can do to respond, and no imaginable end to its consequences’.

As mentioned earlier, the writer has cleverly presented the issues of people with differences in age, gender and social status. She quotes a poor tattoo artist, the person who called the first big demonstration against BP in New Orleans and co-founder of the organization ‘Murdered Gulf’, saying that ‘I don’t even eat seafood anymore, because that shit’s fucked up.’ Similarly, she highlights the threat to the $330 million fishing industry posed by the diversion of Mississippi river water. The industry is the livelihood of highly skilled but poorly educated people.

On the other hand, a University of Alabama economist, Sam Addy claims that "Water transportation was not affected to our knowledge, fishing lost at least one major season out of two annually, and tourism was not wiped out -- al though it was severely impacted -- in the two coastal counties". The evidence against this assertion is the fact that twenty-one years after the Exxon Valdez spill, fishing industry has not revived. It is unjust to deny the repercussions and avoid taking responsibility of one’s act. Moreover, the existence of adverse affects after twenty-one years presses one to ponder how long would the BP oil spills last and what will be the repercussions.  The article finishes on the same note and thus, a solemn message was communicated effectively. Almost all the aspects of the issue were covered and diverse perspectives were also highlighted.

Works Cited

Woodruff, By Cosby. "Gulf Spill's Estimated Impact May Be More than $1.7 Billion | | Montgomery Advertiser." | Montgomery Advertiser | Montgomery News, Community, Entertainment, Yellow Pages and Classifieds. Serving Montgomery, AL. 06 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Nov. 2010. < spill s estimated impact may be more than 1.7 billion>.


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