The Societal Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill

The Gulf, or BP, oil spill has consequences that are obvious and immediate and it has consequences that are very hard to relate to the spill. There will be future consequences that will reverberate throughout the world for as far as we can look into the future. It may be impossible to prove direct relationships to the actual release of oil, gases and dispersant into a huge region, but there will be relationships.

In terms of society, there are connections that reach around the globe and there are extremely localized connections, even individual consequences. Looking into some of these, it is going to be a long term and continuous process to investigate, examine and identify what will occur.

Health: The toxins in a barrel of oil can sicken and kill now and they can sicken and kill over time. They can be at microscopic or molecular levels, or they can be in gaseous or vaporous form. If the entire central valley of California, can be alarmed at one shower of lung corroding and microscopic toxic particles at a single shopping center in the central valley city of Fresno, then imagine the impact of vast releases of methane, butane, benzine and other gases into the atmosphere from the BP oil spill.

There have been immediate sickenings of humans and there will more than likely be metabolic, neurological, digestive and reproductive disorders that many will attempt to relate to the oil release. Given that there is another leak from the Ocean Saratoga, it will be impossible to prove which spill, along with the natural seepage of oil into the Gulf is at fault.

This will all challenge public opinion, the law, the medical industry and community, charitable organizations, the government, the courts, the legal profession, and generations of exposed people and extended families for decades to come.

Economics: Sadly and ironically, great and catastrophic disasters can create as much or more opportunity than is lost. As fishermen lose their ability to get foodstocks from the Gulf, they may begin to make income from supporting oil drilling operations. Biological, manual, and automated environmental remediation will open up opportunities to engineers, scientists, workers, inventors and others wil will provide such peripheral support as protective gear, housing and services and so on.

The growing concern over a fossil fuel based economy, in conjunction with political and social movements already see opportunities to push for alternative energy sooner rather than later. This will create a new economy as the fossil fuel based economy hopefully goes into a period of some decline, while investment and production of alternative fuel sources goes into a period of transition from expensive R&D and into less costly production.

Speculative economics will boom as a new way of betting on the futures of alternative energies sparks speculative investment.

Demographics: There will be opportunities and problems for the poorest of the poor. There will be manual and low level labor, but there will also be more direct exposure to toxins or even jobs where they are abused and mistreated. There will be less ability to have proper legal and societal representation in the courts and in the institutions of government in comparison to professionals, scientists, lawyers and well financed investors and corporations will have.

Many generational residents of Louisiana and Mississippi left the region after Hurricane Katrina, with little or no intentions of returning. The national economy, however, may drive them back to the homes that they know. But many of these individuals were business owners, teachers and professionals in a variety of fields. This diaspora will result in an influx of newcomers who have no ancestral or even initial connection to the land and the culture.

This will mean that a predominantly Southern American, less diverse group of unique cultures will get an influx of permanent residents, tourists and temporary residents who will not even be interested in adapting to local culture, but who will demand housing, culture, entertainment, environmental considerations, law enforcement, government, political changes and changed social processes that appeal to them.

National society will either call for reforms of the corruption, deregulaton and collusion of the Bush era of administration, or will demand a return to the same style of administration and leadership. The corporations, with their superior powers to influence elections with unlimited contributions, will overwhelm any voter opposition to determine who serves in leadership through their financial and other support. There might be a “Gulf Coast fatigue” that will be instantaneous if another major disaster or crisis erupts and draws attention elsewhere.

World society will, for a long time in future history, assign many social, legal, medical, environmental, political, corruption and collusion issues to the long term and permanent damage from the worst environmental disaster in US history.