"What we can't seem to accept," says Roger Ebert, "is that the oil is leaking and we can't stop it."
I have a degree in marine biology, granted to me at UBC 20 years ago. In the back of my mind, I often think these days of what the oil is doing to the physiologies of the animals, plants, and microorganisms in the Gulf. (And what oil is doing elsewhere to organisms in the waters of Nigeria, Venezuela, northern Alberta, the Persian Gulf, and elsewhere.)
There's irony. Petroleum is a natural product: millions of years ago, in an ancient ocean, microscopic algae absorbed sunlight and used the energy to build their tiny cells from carbon dioxide dissolved in water from the air. Similarly tiny zooplankton ate some of the algae. Then they all died, and were buried, and with heat and pressure and eons of time their remains turned into goopy sludge buried in layers of sedimentary rock.
There were titanic numbers of those microorganisms, so there's a lot of sludge in our planet's crust, trapped here and there. We extract it, process it, and burn it. The CO2 returns to the atmosphere, eventually to our detriment. Oil power is an extremely awkward, inefficient, roundabout, and time-delayed form of solar power.
And the oil gushing out from a hole we drilled into the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico? The organisms now living in that sea are being poisoned by the remains of their remote ancestors. It's as if the cities of western North America were being inundated by a spewing geyser of fossil dinosaur bones, unleashed from the Badlands east of the Rockies, burying us in the petrified skeletons of our distant relatives.