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Can an Oil Spill Actually Help the Environment? Finding a Silver Lining in an Environmental Crisis

05/11/2010 05:46 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

While you may feel that the media coverage of the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana has exhausted every angle, there is one point of view that is sorely missing. Most of the articles about the spill are either pointing figures at various companies (BP) or describing how horrendous the scope of the spill has been (it's pretty nasty).

The one thing that has surprised me is that no one is focusing on how we may look back at this as a defining moment in shaping environmental strategy and energy policy for years to come.

Think about it:

The largest environmental success stories have come from disasters.

The hole in the ozone layer led to the phasing out of CFCs, the affects of DDT on bird populations and the publication of Silent Sprint led to its rapid removal, the Exxon Valdez spill led to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and the Love Canal disaster led to the creation of CERCLA and Superfund.

We have a tendency not react to environmental problems until we get smacked in the face by something serious. While many of us long for an approach like that of the Precautionary Principle, we instead tend to put the burden of proof on scientists who have to prove something is dangerous rather than companies proving something is safe.

Why is it that we try to push away the experts who are only looking out for our safety?

Thus, I propose, that while this is a disaster the likes of which we will hopefully never see again, there is a silver lining. I imagine that in 10 years from now we will look at this as a defining moment in the quest for green energy. This event will be the catalyst for us to start utilizing greener and safer fuel sources.

So maybe the glass is half full, even if it is half full of oil.