Samantha Joye, a professor from the University of Georgia, is being interviewed by ABC News while on a submarine expedition at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexicoo.
As the one year anniversary of the tragic Deepwater Horizon blowout approaches, Professor Joye and her team continue to study the ongoing impacts of the oil spill (technically not an oil spill but a hydrocarbon discharge) on the Gulf’s ecosystem. Their study involved 250 cores of the seafloor over 2,600 square miles, and included sites that they had been researching before the leak occurred.
They just presented their findings at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting this past weekend, and what they found was grim: no living signs of typically abundant marine critters remained on the oil-covered ocean floor.
You would never guess this from visiting the Gulf today. The surface level slicks are gone, the shore habitat has been cleaned, and wildlife is no longer washing up covered in oil. Even the fishing and tourist industries are starting to crank back up.
But, in this case, things are not as they seem. Large quantities of oil that were not skimmed up or broken down eventually sank to the bottom, covering swaths of the Gulf floor with almost half a foot of oil and dead marine organisms.
Meanwhile, almost predictably, BP representatives have recently claimed that they Gulf would fully recover by the end of 2012. Dr. Joye’s take is quite the opposite, according to the BBC: “I think it’s going to be 2012 before we begin to really see the fisheries implications and repercussions from this.”
Unfortunately, now that the Gulf oil spill has largely dropped out of the news, and many of the visible manifestations are gone, it is easy to forget that the problem still very much exists and warrants our attention.
As Christians, we have an opportunity here to show the world that God cares for his creation—even the parts not usually visible to humans—and calls us to work for its flourishing (Genesis 1 and 2).
Our oil-dependent lifestyles are part of the problem that made the Deep Horizon disaster possible. By taking responsibility and stepping up our stewardship, however, we can also become part of the solution. And part of being the solution involves doing something about all the energy we consume and the sources it comes from.
The ministry I now work for, the Evangelical Environmental Network, helped coordinate the Christian response to the Gulf Oil Spill by holding prayer meetings in affected areas, and by bringing religious and political leaders down to the Gulf to experience firsthand what was going on. Our executive director, Rev. Mitch Hescox, also undertook an 80 mile prayer walk through the region, stopping often to meet and pray with local communities. It is a meaningful start, but much more remains to be done.
As time passes and the news cycle continues to move on, I pray that we will not forget the Gulf of Mexico, but will instead faithfully champion its healing and join those working to bring it back to life.