Hugh Bollinger
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Earth Day 2011

We are reminded that Earth Day is today. Two examples illustrate the meaning of this day. Established in 1970, Earth Day was originally intended "to inspire awareness and appreciation of the Earth's natural environment". This was a worthy objective considering our dependence on the natural ecosystems that sustain us all. Today is also the first anniversary of the explosion/sinking of the  Deep Water Horizon drilling platform that resulted in one of the biggest oil spills ever. This confluence of dates and events is worthy of our attention and reflection. The direct impacts of the drilling explosion included: the deaths of 11 engineers on the rig;  three months of oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico before the massive undersea gusher was capped at the bottom of the sea;  oil slicks covering wetlands and beaches along five Gulf States coastlines; restricted or completely closed ocean fisheries and seafood livelihoods in portions of the Gulf; billions of dollars in lost tourist revenues to local communities; and long term ecological affects to wildlife that are still to be determined. A newly released report released by the Center for Biological Diversity tabulates what is known so far of the direct impacts to birds, turtles, dolphins, and other Gulf wildlife. The authors estimate that: "approximately 6,000 sea turtles, 26,000 dolphins and whales, 82,000 birds, and countless fish and invertebrates may have been harmed by the disaster. Based on the documented, ongoing effects of previous oil spills, pollution from the 2010 BP (oil) spill will continue to affect Gulf wildlife for decades to come." What is particularly distressing is the number of endangered sea turtles and baby dolphins that have been washing up dead on Gulf Coast beaches. No estimates are yet known of oil impacts to larvae of major fish species such as the Bluefin Tuna that breeds in the Gulf of Mexico. Bluefin are already struggling from overfishing elsewhere but the young tuna fish begin life in the protection of coastal marsh "nurseries"  which may have received thick coverings of oil. The new book-- A Sea in Flames --by marine ecologist, Carl Safina, reveals the tangled layers both managerial and ecological of the oil spill on the Gulf. [caption id="attachment_3626" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="dead baby dolphin on Gulf Coast"][/caption] Gulf restoration efforts will continue-- BP has just released the first $1 billion "down payment" for coastal and Gulf recovery programs --and maybe by Earth Day 2012 the news from this region will have improved. Let's hope so. However, to keep more of the original intent of Earth Day in mind, the incredible whale imagery pioneered by photographer,  Bryant Austin and his Marine Mammal Conservation Through The Arts organization should be mentioned. Austin never intended becoming a photographer of the massive mammals much less one from such an close-up perspective. An encounter with a mother humpback whale and her newborn calf changed his life and future path. Austin decided to create gigantic mosaic photos of whales to present their grandeur that now tours art galleries and museums worldwide. His goal is to help educate people about these highly intelligent marine creatures that often seem more adapted to their water-world than we do to our own terrestrial one. [caption id="attachment_3638" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="minke whale close-up photo credit: Bryant Austin"][/caption] The "power of one" is often mentioned when an individuals singular effort changes the thinking and action of others. Bryant Austin's photography is one example and a fitting tribute to the original Earth Day organizers and their intent. WHB
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