Listen to Jim Gabour’s interview with Intelligence Squared. A summary follows.

As scientists continue to debate the severity of the Deepwater Horizon spill and the likelihood of lasting damage to ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico, questions are being asked about how politicians have responded. Some have accused Barack Obama of wild over-reaction to the spill, and of using it as a vehicle for anti-corporate propaganda. They argue that he was playing to the gallery in order to win back some popularity ahead of the mid-term elections. The finger has also been pointed at green groups who, some say, are deliberately playing up the scale of the spill in order to discourage us from using oil at all. Others argue that it was a huge catastrophe, and that the Gulf of Mexico and the Louisiana coastline have been devastated by the spill, and will continue to be so for years to come.

Jim Gabour

There has certainly been a sensational atmosphere to all of this. At the same time as people are screaming for help, they are doing ad campaigns saying that the beaches are here and ready for visitors.

The magnification by the media doesn’t actually help. The tourism and seafood seasons have effectively been killed by the media. As far away as New York, people are ordering sea food and refusing it if it comes from the Gulf.

For those who have lost their livelihoods, it cannot be hyped enough. The world will collectively forget soon, that’s how it goes. But oyster beds have been ruined for the next five to ten years. As one fisherman said; “you can fool the people, but you can’t fool the fish.”

Americans will keep guzzling oil, prospecting will remain in the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, not everything that’s wrong here is down to BP, (the area was used as a dumping ground for bombs after World War Two), but the habitat’s fragility has meant that the effects of the accident have been far greater than if it had happened elsewhere.

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