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Deepwater Horizon and the Hope of the Ecosystem Restoration Marketplace

As if we don’t already have enough problems with war and our economy. On the environmental front, the Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster has some already calling it the worst ecological catastrophe in U.S. history. We are all now familiar with the situation – according to NOAA, a riser pipe which used to lead from the well to the rig is leaking approximately 5000 barrels per day. Drilling of a relief well will take months. A cofferdam-like structure to collect the oil at the sea floor has been deployed.

That’s not all the bad news. The Western North Atlantic Bluefin Tuna population has crashed and is currently estimated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna to be at 3% of its 1960 population levels. Note that the Western Bluefin Tuna spawns in the Gulf of Mexico, from May 1 through June 7. The story repeats itself for other species; the Atlantic White Marlin is at 6%. The Canadian Cod Fisheries were wiped out in the early 1990s and have yet to rebound. Adding insult to injury, a few days ago, the U.N. rejected an export ban on Bluefin proposed by the U.S. As reported by the New York Times:

“The bluefin tuna is an iconic fish species,” said Tom Strickland, assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks. “The science is compelling, the statistics are dramatic. That species is in spectacular decline.”

Some folks believe that we humans are moved to action by such terrible events. I don’t really believe that – not in the long-run. Sure, we’ll get up off the couch when we see poverty and war and starvation, but our indignation doesn’t last long. My view is that real behavioral change is best driven by positive, visionary motives, such as the dreams possessed by immigrants that came to this country¬† a century ago or for someone like me or my friends and family – just moving to a new area to pursue a better quality of life and a new job. Yes, we’re pushed by bad circumstances but we won’t make big leaps unless we see something really better down the road.

This Deepwater Horizon incident may be bad. But I bet in short order human civilization will be back to offshore drilling – unless we somehow find another way to sustain ourselves that diminishes the need for an economy largely based on hydrocarbons. I believe we are on the cusp of such a shift – a movement from an industrial to post-industrial economy that hasn’t really yet come into view. But there are signs:

  • Folks’ dawning realization here in the U.S. that a quick return to our financial exuberance of the last decade ain’t just around the corner – and that perhaps a fair wage for a good day’s work is not so bad.
  • Government’s failure to deliver solutions to the big wicked problems we can’t seem to solve.
  • The publication of books such as Spontaneous Evolution, by Bruce Lipton and The Empathic Civilization: Rethinking Human Nature in the Biosphere Era by Jeremy Rifkin that describe the social transformation that is now underway and which is driving organizations such as Conserv.

Human civilization’s quest for a positive future is bubbling up through social/economic/environmental projects such as the Forests to Faucets explorations now underway on the East Coast and the proposed Rappahannock Marketplace Initiative, set to kick off in Fredericksburg June 10, as well as other ecological/economic initiatives now underway worldwide.

Humanity, in countless ways, is now in search of a path to the post-industrial age. This is an exciting and hopeful time. But, we need to move quickly. Our generation is presently chewing through environmental capital at a clip that is, in my view, horribly unfair to my kids and their kids’ generations. We have no right to steal from their future.

- Michael Collins


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