Don’t mess with beaches ~ thoughts on an unnatural disaster

NASA  Satellite Gulf Oil Deep Horizon Well Leak

The gushing Louisiana oil well is about to show that paradise is a more powerful force than political allegiances. The Florida coast and islands are threatened.

Obama has spent much of his first year+ rushing to the center, presumably building momentum for reelection in 2012. His approval of expanded offshore drilling mostly just fueled consternation among his base and defused a potential political weapon against him. He seemed to be weighing the likelihood of an unnatural disaster with the probability that he could attract centrist voters who likely think that the necessity of drilling to reduce our dependence on overseas sources of oil outweighs the risk.  But now that the beaches have been threatened, watch out. The political calculation has been overturned.

The left quickly pounced on this tragedy to assert that offshore oil drilling is provably not safe. The new political question will be whether or not the practice is still necessary despite the risk. The two biggest Republican political stars in two of the most important paradise destinations have already stepped up to say no. Governor Crist of Florida and Governor Schwarzenegger of Florida have withdrawn their support for offshore drilling along their sensitive coasts. Given that these accidents can affect multiple jurisdictions, it is only normal that leaders from other states should listen to these men. Even if they do not, they may have little choice if Jimmy Buffett steps in to flex his latent political muscle.

It is interesting to compare this incident with the recent Massey coal mining incident in which many workers’ lives were also lost. The outrage we heard in the media over the coal mining disaster was focused on the loss of life and the difficulties of the families. With this oil platform disaster, however, people seem far more concerned about the economic vitality of the fishermen and of the ecosystem on which their industry and their states’ tourism economies rely.

After the initial shock of the impending beach disaster wears off, people are going to find new sources of anger. For example, some beach restoration projects have had their sand displaced to help block at-risk areas from being invaded by the sludge. More importantly, concern about the loss of life will also return, questioning offshore drilling’s overall viability. The effects will linger.

Messing with paradise is bad business. BP needs to double down on their efforts to protect the places that people love or else face a paradisiacal backlash stronger than most people’s religious and political motivations. Unlike making mistakes in those realms, destroying people’s favorite places will be an unforgivable offense that will linger in the minds of affected residents for the rest of their lives and perhaps even in the minds of their offspring.

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Posted on May 4, 2010
Filed Under Beaches, Natural Disasters, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment

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