This month has been both a special time for our planet's ocean and one of great distress. June 7th kicked off a week full of events, celebrating Capital Hill Ocean Week, World Ocean Day (June 8th) and my grandfather's 100th birthday commemoration dive, end-capping the week on June 11th. Throughout the week, the beauty, majesty and fragility of our water world were center pieces of discussions and of revery.
During our June 11th dive on the "Grand Canglouer" (location of my grandfather's first expedition in the early 50s) off Marseille, my father Jean-Michel, sister Celine, and I, were honored to be submerged with some of the original crew of Calypso such as our dear friend, Albert Falco. Not only was this an extraordinary moment for us as a family, but also one that was an intimate communion with the "undersea world".
Churning in the water column, resembling a giant ink cloud from a gigantic octopus, a dark shroud has enveloped our aquatic arena since April 20th, 2010 and its vision has become all too familiar, thanks to hundreds of Web sites and blogs showing the live feed. The Gulf oil spill, a catastrophe of epic proportions, has commanded the world's attention for 62+ days straight now. Not only has the sea-floor-gusher not been halted, the current flow estimates are a phenomenal 60,000 barrels of crude spewing freely into the Gulf every 24-hours. Now that's daunting.
People are frightened, angry, frustrated and feel helpless in the face of such a monstrous disaster. Confronting such stress, mud slinging and finger pointing seems commonplace. Although there is a significant list of people who should be held accountable, the danger is that we are getting distracted from actually fixing the problem first. The longer we stumble upon ourselves and argue, the worse the long-term impact on our environment and on our future will be.
Aside from actually "plugging the hole," a huge long-term cleanup effort is mandatory. And no, chemical dispersants are not the answer. We must roll up our sleeves and mop up the mess before it suffocates and poisons not only the whole of the Gulf Coast, but the Caribbean, the North American Atlantic Coast and eventually Western European shores.
There are responders from Government, NGOs, private sectors, and the public, who are pitching in to help with clean up efforts. While their significant efforts are most definitely helping, the scale of the spill requires a ten-fold increase if we are to fathom a brighter future.
Adoption of new technologies such as EcoSphere's filtration units can be a great asset to help eliminate the oil from the water column with the least negative impact. Documenting the effects of BP crude on aquatic and avian wildlife (the Ocean Futures team has been filming in the Gulf since April) is also paramount to informing the public about any progress and as a basis for future restoration efforts (such as with the Plant A Fish initiatives). And while there are many people wanting to volunteer to help clean up animals and beaches alike, unfortunately there is still a huge lack of training facilities to enlist these could-be responders.
With almost 9,000 oil and gas platforms surrounding U.S. coastal waters, it's not a matter of if this happens again but when.
We must end our 100-year-old addiction to fossil fuels.
One thing is for sure, we will be dealing with the consequences of the BP Gulf oil spill for decades to come. How long we will be dealing with those consequences is dependent on what we can accomplish now, not what we will do tomorrow. Nature will recover from our abuse, eventually. It is up to us if we want to recover with her or be relegated to a footnote in her history.
Even though the environmental and economic challenges we are facing are of monumental proportions, human beings are capable of creating miracles when pressed for them. We know what we need to do.
Now, it's a matter of learning to live with the planet rather than living on it.
Follow Fabien Cousteau on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FCousteau