Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Goliath With No Little David

The smell is obvious. At times, when the southerly breezes kick up, it permeates the dense humid atmosphere that is so much a familiar part of life close to the coast during the summer. It smells like crude oil. No. It doesn’t have any rotten egg smell. It’s been aerating long enough for the smell of hydrogen sulfide to dissipate. It just smells like oil.

The full reality of this manmade catastrophe, something that looms on the horizon, is yet to be seen. We know it’s out there. We’ve seen bits and bands of it. We’ve already seen the effects of their small scale assaults on local economies and coastal wildlife. These showings, however, have only been teases. They’ve only been small sorties.

The bulk of the multiplied millions of gallons of crude oil that have belched from the belly of the earth into the Gulf over these past several weeks is still waiting for the right combination of conditions to make any kind of major claim or exact a most horrific toll.

The waiting is wearying, soul wearying. More so now that we’ve entered the time of year when the tropics are capable of producing the tropical storms and hurricanes that make life along the coast interesting enough. It’s like knowing an unstoppable invading hoard has amassed just over the hill and there’s no place to run to for safety, no Little David with a sling and a few smooth round stones to take it on.

Adding to the strength of this Goliath is the reality that nothing done to stop it dead in its tracks has worked. Dispersants have only exacerbated and complicated the problem. Despite this latest attempt to plug the hole, and despite the statements by the responsible agent that the latest attempt has slowed the blow by ½, oil is still gushing faster than skimmers on the water and crews on the beaches can clean it up.