Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dead Zone off Louisiana; Who's to Blame?

Are the farms in the Midwest any different than the BP oil spill in the Gulf? Why do we care about the BP spill, but not the runoff from farms that causes the same damage? And why haven't the southern states, most notably Louisiana, filed lawsuits the way northeastern states have against coal-burning power plants in the Midwest that sent plumes of acid rain over the Northeast?

Because of the runoff from the Mississippi River watershed. all along the Gulf of Mexico there are places in the water called "dead zones," and they are exactly what you might think the name implies. The runoff that drains from the heartland of the United States and the Midwest, from the Missouri and the mighty Ohio, plus a host of other rivers, is filled with what news reports are calling "nutrient-rich" runoff, but what they mean is fertilizer. Single cell animals on a large scale feed on the nutrients, thus depleting the oxygen for larger animals.

A huge "dead zone" has made the news, and what makes this one particularly noticeable is that there are five or six species that have been killed, instead of the normal one or two species for your "typical" dead zone. (I can't believe I just used the word "normal" to describe something called a dead zone.) Experts are wondering if this one doesn't have something to do with the BP oil spill. Read the news story here on Yahoo.

I guess the first thing that comes to my mind is that there have been these dead zones for how long now?--and now we're wondering if it is associated with the oil spill, when in fact, the farms and their toxic runoff have the same effect as a renegade oil well. Where's the logic in that?

We're just slitting our own throats, and with the economy the way it is, environmental issues will continue to take a back seat to the economy. Still, I wish someone would realize that the greening of America, as it's called, could be the one thing that brings back jobs and the country. It would constitute new industries and a new way life, but more importantly it would mean our survival.

Photos via Billy Nungesser/WWL

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