How to Destroy an Ecosystem in 3 Easy Steps

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Hey, Tony “I Would Like My Life Back” Hayward! 

Now that you’re no longer the bloated public face of BP, it seems your narcissistic wish for some “me time” has been granted. 

Hope you enjoyed sailing off the oil-free shores of Britain on your $270 million yacht. What else would one expect from a tone-deaf CEO whose 2009 salary and bonuses totaled about $4.5 million? 

Tony, you may want to publish the Cliff’s Notes for wrecking other countries’ ecosystems. I’m sure Exxon would be interested. 

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with what you’ve done, we turn to Carl Hacker, PhD, JD, an associate professor of ecology and health law at The University of Texas School of Public Health, who explains what happened after the massive Gulf Coast spill: 

  1. First up was the immediate ecological impact. Fish, crabs and birds sported lethal coatings of oil and washed up along the coast. Some species now face extinction.
  2. Grasses, which made up the wetlands, were destroyed. As a result, food and foraging surfaces for surviving animals have been lost.
  3. Humans, also part of the food web, had to say goodbye to crabs, shrimp, oysters, and finfish. Many fishermen lost their livelihoods, and workers died in the explosion that caused the spill.

“How long the effects of this well blowout will last is hard to imagine or forecast,” Dr. Hacker says. “A coastal wetland is an ecosystem: an assemblage of plants and animals with their physical environment. Although we know an ecosystem can be destroyed and recover in time, we do not know what the ecosystem will look like when it returns. 

“It is likely that many of the species that formed the coastal wetland will be lost. The relationship among the plants and animals that make up the ecosystem will certainly change. We have no experience with estimating how long it will take for this coastal wetland to recover, or indeed whether it will recover. If it does recover, it will most certainly take a very long time.” 

Heckuva job, Tony. 

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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