Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cautiously Optimistic Becomes

Optimism is good. Optimism keeps us moving forward, spurs innovation, shapes that wonderful thing called hope, but blind or hasty optimism can be damaging. The optimism swirling around BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster falls into the latter.

This time the strong optimistic tone comes in a well researched and detailed New York Times story. The tilt of the piece leans heavily toward the good news we all want to hear, especially in the parts of the story most people will actually read. Even as scientists say they are "cautiously optimistic" and, according to the article, "...assuming that the food chain remains healthy — and this remains a major question for scientists...", there is a sense that it's now ok to embrace the tide of good fortune.

This kind of optimism is alarming because it feeds a mindset that is dangerous for the oceans. It's already a huge challenge to change people's perception of the oceans -- convince them that the oceans actually cannot absorb anything we throw at them. Also, the rush to believe that the Gulf is fine squelches the momentary urgency of moving away from the petroleum economy and onto a renewable energy economy for the sake of the oceans and the planet.

This quote here seems particularly slippery for the non-scientist to do anything but come away happy as a clam: '"Based on what I have seen so far, it could have been a lot worse,” said Lisa DiPinto, acting chief of NOAA’s marine debris division." Recall NOAA were the first to say most of the oil is gone, which remains controversial and unconfirmed. By the way, the headline of the story is Gulf May Avoid Direst Predictions After Oil Spill. Let's not miss the word "may" therein.

Look, maybe it will be a lucky break and the whole mess will have a much smaller impact that imagined and speculated -- that would be the best news all year. But like Eco Ocean has noted in previous posts, let's give it more time and gather more sound science before we go tiptoeing through the tulips.

Read more here.

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