Guest blog by Stephen Dishart, Executive Director, Blue Ocean Institute
To view Carl’s TEDx Oil Spill lecture click here.
Safina points to gross negligence as the cause of the spill
With a remarkable agenda of speakers, the hottest topic on the planet and a crowd of environmental experts and others eager for the latest word on the Gulf oil crisis, the TEDx Oil Spill event June 28th in Washington brought out the strongest message heard to date on the spill from Blue Ocean Institute’s Dr. Carl Safina.
“This is not just a Gulf issue,” said Safina, “we’re all engulfed. This will go down in the Guinness Book of ‘Unpreparedness,’” he told the audience at the sold-out daylong conference.
The TEDx Oil Spill program was delivered in four sessions covering Observation, Oil Science, Conservation and The Future of Energy. The event was independent from, but operated under a license by TED, a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Each session featured leaders from the world of academia, business leaders, artists and leading NGOs.
Speaking from recent experience in the Gulf and based on his decades of writing and research, Dr. Safina was applauded by the crowd for his bold statement that he refuses to look at the spill as an “accident.” Instead, said Safina, “This is the result of gross negligence. The root causes of which are money and ideology.” Emphasizing some key themes of his recent writing, Safina, stated that the culture of deregulation has, in the case of the spill, “left the murderer in charge of the crime scene.”
Earlier in the day, Philippe Cousteau, a member of the legendary family and CEO of EarthEcho International, kicked off the program. Recalling his grandfather, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, he opened the event emphasizing that the “oil crisis is not just what you can see, but also what you can’t see” under the ocean surface.
The theme of the hidden truth beneath the surface continued throughout many of the speakers’ remarks and presentations. The issue that the enormous underwater spread of the gushing oil has been hidden by toxic dispersants beneath the waves also led many audience members and other participants to ask for the truth from BP and the government.
Picking up that premise, marine toxicologist Dr. Susan Shaw, said, “The Ocean is the final sink of toxic chemicals. You can see the web of death.” Shaw, who is the founder and director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute explained how the combination of the Corexit, the dispersant BP is using, and oil are more toxic than either oil or the dispersant alone.
Noted oceanographer and explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle called on the nation to give back to the Gulf, itself. Recalling a recent dive in the oil slick in the Gulf and a visit to an unaffected area, Earle drew contrasts between the remarkable degradation and “signs of hope in a sea of despair.” But in that message of hope she also cautioned that each August is a major time of coral spawning in the Gulf and that the spill is “not good for corals and all life.”