U.S. Food Chain Starvation

May 18 2010 - 3:59 PM

How-long-will-oil-spill-last_1 Probably this week, we'll start seeing real information about just how bad the BP oil catastrophe is.  It's relevant to everyone and everything. Certainly to foodies. "We are what we eat… and what it has eaten." is something I often say regarding sustainability, bio-ethics, etc. But it is very literal.

This spill is starvation for us a couple stages removed. Once our food chain changes, we will change as well. Case in point, zooplankton. What eats zooplankton? Shrimp, among other fish, what eats fish and shrimp? We do. We starve the shrimp of plankton, we starve ourselves of shrimp. This is what the BP spill means to us. From Scientific American:

That's bad news for the millions of translucent sea creatures out there—zooplankton—and
could ultimately end up having cascading effects up the food chain. "If
you start removing pieces of this big food web out there, what's going
to happen?" Shirley asks. "We don't really know but probably not good

And that's just the fish and shrimp. Then there are filter feeders…

And the dispersed oil more readily crosses membranes as well as being more easily taken up by filter feeders, such as the deep-water coral in the vicinity or oysters nearer to shore. "Oysters will bioconcentrate this so fast," Kendall says.

Needless to say springtime is breeding time…

…entire generations of short-lived
species such as shrimp or crabs may disappear. "It's going to take
immigration to replace some of those lost-year classes for things to
get back to the level they were."

And it translates above-water in marshes…

But it's when the oil gets into the marshes that the effects really
start to accumulate. "That's your nurseries," Kendall notes, for
species ranging from fish to birds. Adds Short: "It sets the stage for
impacts from embryo toxicity. It gets into the developing eggs and
induces aberrations in development. Even the smallest aberration in the
field is lethal…. These marshes are important nursery areas for
pretty much everything."

This is going to go beyond the Gulf of Mexico.

"My big nightmare is that this oil is going to get carried around to
the Florida Keys and up the Eastern Seaboard," Shirley says. "That will
happen. It's a matter of how much and when."

I have a friend who responds to this oil event with "BP is 15,000 and
1". I let it go thinking he just doesn't get it. I'm at a loss at how
to better explain it without sounding epically pessimistic . Scientific
American might be impartial enough politically to help us get over that

Even if BP is "15,000 and 1", if people can't see how the risk is unacceptable… I'm just at a loss.