For over two months now, I have consciously avoided blogging about the Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster and the environmental nightmare that is developing because of it. What has struck me, though, as I have watched this situation develop, is how easy it was over the first month or so of the spill for the magnitude and impacts to be not necessarily forgotten, but at least minimized. In the early days of the disaster, news stations showed maps and graphics of the oil slick and talked about how many gallons or barrels of oil were being spewed into the gulf. Unlike Hurricane Katrina where the devastation was immediately apparent and the photos were heart-wrenching, in the early days of the oil spill there was nothing to create an emotional connection with. Show me as many maps as you want- that oil spill looks huge, but what, exactly, does that mean? In the past few weeks, though, the impacts have hit home as news reports are flooded with horrific photos of struggling, dying oil soaked pelicans and other birds and emotional stories of fisherman unable to make a living and more recently the injury and even suicide of those helping with the cleanup. All of a sudden, when the emotional side of the oil spill became clear, outrage followed.
I feel like there is a very important lesson for us to learn from this as we try to push for sustainability. How do we humanize the amount of waste humans produce on a daily basis? How do we make this issue strike a chord? How do we bring the idea of water shortages and unfit drinking water home- how do we make the emotional connection? Graphs and charts and maps don’t do much for us as human beings- we need to make the situation real.