Posted by: Michael D. Austin | May 18, 2010

The Gulf Oil Disaster. Monday, 5-24-10, 8 AM Pacific

Deepwater Horizon rig fire, 4-22-10, from the U.S. Coast Guard Website

UPDATES 5-22-10:  John Amos, President and founder of SkyTruth, today co-authored an excellent New York Times Op Ed piece on the vitally important measurement of the Deepwater Horizon spill. It’s a must-read for everyone and John is already scheduled for this coming Monday’s show.

And, NASCAR driver and activist Leilani Münter will also now be joining us on that same 5-24-10 broadcast of Blue Planet Almanac radio. Leilani visited with us on a show last year.

I’d said in my weekly environmental newscasts at HealthyLife.net that I’d be postponing the difficult news of the Spring 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig oil spill. It’s all over the news, you’ve seen lots about it, and careful time needs to be devoted to its coverage. Although its effects will be felt and remembered for decades, some of us with 30 years’ perspective have seen this kind of thing before. This isn’t our first rodeo.

But now’s the time, so this coming Monday, May 24th, 2010, at 8 AM Pacific, we’ll be talking about the Deepwater Horizon spill and the Gulf of Mexico, live on HealthyLife.net.

If this story could be said to be about the preservation of precious lives and life, then this accident isn’t just an environmental disaster. It’s important to remember that people lost their lives over this. The Washington Post was one of the few outlets which has good stories about this – please see, “Families of oil rig victims struggle with a devastating loss.” The platform workers’ families and destinies are changed irrevocably, and we should all reflect on the pain this has caused them, keeping them in our thoughts.


60 Minutes’ excellent May 16, 2010 report, part 1

More questions are spawned by this incident than time permits to answer in one short post, but below are some short facts about the spill, supported by a wide variety of news sources including the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, 60 Minutes and many others:

  • BP made many big mistakes culminating in negligence (my word) which killed 11 people and began a massive environmental disaster. Not only just hours before the event, but for months beforehand the blowout preventer’s maintenance was ignored. Why would this culture of irresponsibility be allowed to flourish?
  • BP’s safety and environmental records are spotty at best, and criminal at worst. Exactly how would American government regulators not know about this? For an excellent beginning perspective on what economic costs BP might bear – or not – start with Robert Reich’s essay, “BP Stands for Bad Petroleum.”
  • No one in the Obama administration is forthcoming about how much oil is spilling. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has consistently minimized estimates of its scope. Everyone at BP is feeding us half-truths. Many sensible people believe the spill is far larger than we’re led to believe. Where’s the oil actually going? What’s it doing?

Should we accept these things as “business as usual?” Why would anyone in their right mind accept what a company with a poor environmental record tell them about a massive, life-changing mistake, without having every fact they mumbled be triple-checked?

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If a company inadvertently kills 11 and catalyzes a massive, fatal, environmental and economic disaster, wouldn’t that qualify in most sensible peoples’ minds as a candidate event for criminal indictments?

For me, these things barely scratch the surface of a problem that’s been brewing for decades. But to start to answer them, we’ve got to trust people who make it their business to give us the right information about the Earth, who don’t have a massive investment in environmentally destructive practices. And unfortunately that won’t include American government.

John Amos, executive director and founder of SkyTruth

So we’ll be talking with John Amos, Executive Director of SkyTruth.org, David Guggenheim, President and founder of 1Planet1Ocean.org, and environmental activist and NASCAR & IndyCar racer Leilani Münter. Münter is an ambassador with the National Wildlife Federation, which bills itself as America’s largest conservation organization and strives to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our childrens’ future.

John will discuss his organization’s estimates about the scale of the spill. His nonprofit specializes in showing people what’s really going on based on careful analysis of satellite imagery. Sounds sensible, right? Take a look at the example satellite image in this post, taken from SkyTruth’s Website.

A Cornell University graduate, SkyTruth’s Website says this about John: ” Throughout the 1990s, working in the private sector as a geologist who used remote sensing as an exploration tool, John Amos became increasingly concerned by the mounting evidence of human-caused changes to landscapes and ecosystems around the world. He began to think that images of habitat loss and the spread of human influence could be important not only as a source of scientific data on environmental change, but also as a powerful tool for communicating these changes to the public.”

“In 2001 John left the for-profit world to lay the groundwork for SkyTruth: meeting with environmental groups to learn more about the state of environmental remote sensing; talking to advocates about their communications needs and resource limitations; and presenting the capabilities of satellite and aerial images to environmental NGOs, grassroots activists and government resource managers.”

SkyTruth Gulf Oil Spill satellite snapshot, 5-18-10. Click to enlarge.

“In 2002, SkyTruth was… awarded a start-up grant from the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation. Projects soon followed, including the use of satellite and aerial imagery to study the landscape impacts of natural gas drilling on the Rocky Mountain west, reveal commercial fishing vessels “fishing the line” around marine protected areas, and show the growth of strip mining for coal and other minerals around the United States.”

Dr. David E. Guggenheim, ocean doctor

David E. Guggenheim, who has been Blue Planet Almanac’s distinguished guest before, will explain the downstream effects of a spill this size from an ecologist’s perspective. David has a long history as a marine biologist, including – guess where – the Gulf of Mexico. And remember the word “ecologist” means someone with formal training in biology, chemistry, physics and natural history. David is especially knowledgeable about the science and natural history of the Gulf. When he agreed to take a few minutes to talk with us again, he mentioned he’s working with legend Sylvia Earle to prepare her testimony before Congress about the spill.

From 1Planet1Ocean’s Website is this bio: “Dr. David E. Guggenheim is president of 1planet1ocean as well as a consultant in conservation policy and science based in Washington, DC… including leading research and conservation efforts in Cuba, implementing the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission… and advancing next-generation sustainable aquaculture practices as an alternative to fishing’s ongoing depletion of wild fish stocks and disruption of ocean ecosystems.”

“Previously, he was vice president for conservation policy at The Ocean Conservancy. In addition, he led cooperative research and conservation programs in Cuba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and elsewhere in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Guggenheim draws from nearly 25 years of multidisciplinary experience in environmental research, policy analysis, advocacy and environmental education… has served as President & CEO of The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and co-chair of the Everglades Coalition… was an environmental consultant in Washington, DC where he conducted research on global warming, directed an international team of researchers in a study of Siberian forests.”

“For 10 years, Guggenheim was vice president of EcoAnalysis, Inc. in California… served as President of the Friends of Channel Islands National Park… holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University in Virginia… Masters degrees in Population/Aquatic Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and in Regional Science from the University of Pennsylvania…is a member of the Advisory Council of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where he also serves as Cuba Programs Manager.”

Leilani Münter on SportingNew's 2009 50 Most Beautiful People of NASCAR

Think of Leilani Münter’s role as an example for Americans because she lives many things middle America respects and admires. But she is also a trained biologist and environmental activist. And let the first one of us who’s without environmental sin cast the first stone, because Leilani has the respect, ears and attention of millions of NASCAR and IndyCar fans. Leilani’s Website, Carbon Free Girl, has hundreds of examples of her activities.

Leilani has made a point to visit, first-hand, the scene of the Gulf crime. You’ll want to hear what she saw. She has seen exactly what happened there, surveying the area with the assistance of local captains and fisherman, and including National Wildlife’s Federation president. Leilani’s first-hand reports are especially valuable for us because what America was told was happening, and what’s actually happening, have two clearly different scales. Because she’s trained as a biologist, she could easily discern that things were much worse than we were told by BP, Halliburton and Transocean. Snippets from her past experience include that she…

  • is an ambassador for the National Wildlife Federation.
  • holds a bachelors degree in biology specializing in ecology, behavior and evolution from UC San Diego.
  • has volunteered at a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center.
  • worked as a stunt and photo double for Catherine Zeta-Jones, and has an IMDB entry.
  • has modeled for magazines which include Italian Vogue, Esquire and Men’s Journal and even Reader’s Digest’s 10 Reasons to Love America.
  • made periodic trips to Capitol Hill to speak before Congress about environmental legislation.
  • has blogged for the Huffington Post.
  • purchases an acre of endangered rain forest every time she races.
  • has been filmed for the 2010 premiere of “Guardians of the Earth” on Discovery Channel’s Planet Green.
  • set a new track record at Texas Motor Speedway as she finished 4th, highest finish for any woman racer.
  • is the fourth woman in history to race in the Indy Pro Series.
  • spoke at a Climate Action Rally on the steps of Capitol Hill alongside Senators Barbara Boxer, Joe Lieberman and John Kerry.

Blue Planet Almanac radio airs live with host Mike Austin on HealthyLife.net on the 4th Monday of each month at 8:00 A.M. Pacific Time. Blue Planet Almanac is also re-broadcast later in the week and shows are archived three days after airtime at that same site, with some available through this link. HealthyLife.net is an all-positive talk station and has over 3 million listeners monthly in 104 countries and all 50 United States.

Blue Planet Almanac offers thoughtful perspectives on conscious, green living on Earth. With fascinating interviews, breaking news and product reviews, caller participation about Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability are encouraged, including science and policy of importance to Earthlings. Listeners can have their say in an environment that matters or simply listen to leaders in their field. Join us!


60 Minutes’ excellent May 16, 2010 report, part 2


60 Minutes’ excellent May 16, 2010 report, part 3


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