YouTube

Got a YouTube account?

New: enable viewer-created translations and captions on your YouTube channel!

English subtitles

← The oil spill's unseen culprits, victims | Carl Safina | TEDxOilSpill

The Gulf oil spill dwarfs comprehension, but we know this much: it's bad. Carl Safina scrapes out the facts in this blood-boiling cross-examination, arguing that the consequences will stretch far beyond the Gulf -- and many so-called solutions are making the situation worse.

Get Embed Code
7 Languages

Showing Revision 3 created 12/15/2016 by TED Translators admin.

  1. This is the ocean as I used to know it.
  2. And I find that since I've been
    in the Gulf a couple of times,
  3. I really kind of am traumatized
    because whenever I look at the ocean now,
  4. no matter where I am,
  5. even where I know
    that none of the oil has gone,
  6. I sort of see slicks,
  7. and I'm finding that I'm very much
    haunted by it.
  8. But what I want to talk to you about today
  9. is a lot of things that try
    to put all of this in context,
  10. not just about the oil eruption,
    but what it means and why it has happened.
  11. First, just a little bit about me.
  12. I'm basically just a guy
    that likes to go fishing
  13. ever since I was a little kid,
    and because I did,
  14. I wound up studying sea birds
  15. to try to stay in the coastal habitats
    that I so loved.
  16. And now I mainly write books
    about how the ocean is changing,
  17. and the ocean is certainly
    changing very rapidly.
  18. Now we saw this graphic earlier on,
    that we really live on a hard marble
  19. that has just a slight bit
    of wetness to it.
  20. It's like you dipped a marble in water.
  21. And the same thing with the atmosphere:
  22. If you took all the atmosphere
    and rolled it up in a ball,
  23. you would get that little sphere
    of gas on the right.
  24. So we live on the most fragile
    little soap bubble you can imagine,
  25. a very sacred soap bubble,
    but one that is very, very easy to affect.
  26. And all the burning of oil and coal
    and gas, all the fossil fuels,
  27. have changed the atmosphere greatly.
  28. Carbon dioxide level
    has gone up and up and up.
  29. We're warming the climate.
  30. So the blowout in the Gulf
  31. is just a little piece
    of a much larger problem
  32. that we have with the energy
    that we use to run civilization.
  33. Beyond warming,
  34. we have the problem
    of the oceans getting more acidified...
  35. And already measurably so,
    and already affecting animals.
  36. Now in the laboratory, if you take a clam
    and you put it in the pH that is not 8.1,
  37. which is the normal pH
    of seawater, but 7.5,
  38. it dissolves in about three days.
  39. If you take a sea urchin larva from 8.1,
  40. put it in a pH of 7.7...
    Not a huge change...
  41. It becomes deformed and dies.
  42. Already, commercial oyster larvae
    are dying at large scales in some places.
  43. Coral reefs are growing slower
    in some places because of this problem.
  44. So this really matters.
  45. Now, let's take a little tour
    around the Gulf a little bit.
  46. One of the things that really impresses me
    about the people in the Gulf:
  47. They are really, really aquatic people.
  48. And they can handle water.
  49. They can handle a hurricane
    that comes and goes.
  50. When the water goes down,
    they know what to do.
  51. But when it's something other than water,
    and their water habitat changes,
  52. they don't have many options.
  53. In fact, those entire communities
    really don't have many options.
  54. They don't have another thing they can do.
  55. They can't go and work
    in the local hotel business
  56. because there isn't one
    in their community.
  57. If you go to the Gulf and you look around,
    you do see a lot of oil.
  58. You see a lot of oil on the ocean.
  59. You see a lot of oil on the shoreline.
  60. If you go to the site of the blowout,
    it looks pretty unbelievable.
  61. It looks like you just emptied
    the oil pan in your car,
  62. and you just dumped it in the ocean.
  63. And one of the really
    most incredible things, I think,
  64. is that there's nobody out there
    trying to collect it
  65. at the site where it is densest.
  66. Parts of the ocean there
    look just absolutely apocalyptic.
  67. You go in along the shore,
    you can find it everywhere.
  68. It's really messy.
  69. If you go to the places
    where it's just arriving,
  70. like the eastern part
    of the Gulf, in Alabama,
  71. there's still people using the beach
  72. while there are people
    cleaning up the beach.
  73. And they have a very strange
    way of cleaning up the beach.
  74. They're not allowed to put
    more than 10 pounds of sand
  75. in a 50-gallon plastic bag.
  76. They have thousands
    and thousands of plastic bags.
  77. I don't know what they'll do
    with all that stuff.
  78. Meanwhile, there are still
    people trying to use the beach.
  79. They don't see the sign
    that says: "Stay out of the water."
  80. Their kids are in the water;
  81. they're getting tar all over
    their clothes and their sandals...
  82. It's a mess.
  83. If you go to where the oil has been
    for a while, it's an even bigger mess.
  84. And there's basically
    nobody there anymore,
  85. a few people trying to keep using it.
  86. You see people who are really
    shell-shocked.
  87. They are very hardworking people.
  88. All they know about life
    is they get up in the morning,
  89. and if their engine starts,
    they go to work.
  90. They always felt that
    they could rely on the assurances
  91. that nature brought them
    through the ecosystem of the Gulf.
  92. They're finding that their world
    is really collapsing.
  93. And so you can see, literally,
    signs of their shock...
  94. signs of their outrage...
  95. signs of their anger...
  96. and signs of their grief.
  97. These are the things that you can see.
  98. There's a lot you can't see,
    also, underwater.
  99. What's going on underwater?
  100. Well, some people say
    there are oil plumes.
  101. Some people say there are not oil plumes.
  102. And Congressman Markey asks, you know,
  103. "Is it going to take a submarine ride
    to see if there are really oil plumes?"
  104. But I couldn't take a submarine ride...
  105. Especially between the time I knew
    I was coming here and today...
  106. So I had to do a little experiment myself
  107. to see if there was oil
    in the Gulf of Mexico.
  108. So this is the Gulf of Mexico...
  109. sparkling place full of fish.
  110. And I created a little oil spill
    in the Gulf of Mexico.
  111. And I learned, in fact,
    I confirmed the hypothesis
  112. that oil and water don't mix...
  113. until you add a dispersant...
  114. and then...
  115. they start mixing.
  116. And you add a little energy
    from the wind and the waves,
  117. and you get a big mess,
  118. a big mess that you can't possibly clean,
  119. you can't touch, you can't extract
  120. and, I think most importantly...
    This is what I think...
  121. You can't see it.
  122. I think it's being hidden on purpose.
  123. Now this is such a catastrophe
    and such a mess
  124. that lots of stuff is leaking out
    on the edges of the information stream.
  125. But as many people have said,
  126. there's a large attempt
    to suppress what's going on.
  127. Personally, I think that the dispersants
    are a major strategy to hide the body,
  128. because we put the murderer
    in charge of the crime scene.
  129. But you can see it.
  130. You can see where the oil
    is concentrated at the surface,
  131. and then it is attacked,
  132. because they don't want
    the evidence, in my opinion.
  133. OK.
  134. We heard that bacteria eat oil?
  135. So do sea turtles.
  136. When it breaks up,
  137. it has a long way to go
    before it gets down to bacteria.
  138. Turtles eat it.
    It gets in the gills of fish.
  139. These guys have to swim around through it.
  140. I heard the most incredible story today
    when I was on the train coming here.
  141. A writer named Ted Williams called me,
  142. and he was asking me
    a couple of questions about what I saw,
  143. because he's writing an article
    for Audubon magazine.
  144. He said that he had been in the Gulf
    a little while ago; like about a week ago,
  145. and a guy who had
    been a recreational fishing guide
  146. took him out to show him what's going on.
  147. That guide's entire calendar year
    is canceled bookings.
  148. He has no bookings left.
  149. Everybody wanted their deposit back,
    everybody is fleeing.
  150. That's the story of thousands of people.
  151. But he told Ted
    that on the last day he went out,
  152. a bottlenose dolphin
    suddenly appeared next to the boat,
  153. and it was splattering oil
    out its blowhole.
  154. And he moved away
    because it was his last fishing trip,
  155. and he knew that the dolphins scare fish.
  156. So he moved away from it,
    turned around a few minutes later,
  157. it was right next to the side
    of the boat again.
  158. He said that in 30 years of fishing
    he had never seen a dolphin do that.
  159. And he felt that...
  160. (Sigh)
  161. he felt that it was
    coming to ask for help.
  162. Sorry.
  163. Now, in the Exxon Valdez spill,
  164. about 30 percent of the killer whales
    died in the first few months.
  165. Their numbers have never recovered.
  166. So the recovery rate of all this stuff
    is going to be variable.
  167. It's going to take longer for some things.
  168. And some things, I think,
    will probably come back a little faster.
  169. The other thing about the Gulf
    that is important
  170. is that there are a lot of animals
    that concentrate in the Gulf
  171. at certain parts of the year.
  172. So the Gulf is a really
    important piece of water...
  173. More important than a similar volume
    of water in the open Atlantic Ocean.
  174. These tuna swim the entire ocean.
  175. They get in the Gulf Stream,
    they go all the way to Europe.
  176. When it comes time to spawn,
    they come inside,
  177. and these two tuna that were tagged,
  178. you can see them on the spawning grounds
  179. very much right in the area of the slick.
  180. They're probably having,
    at the very least,
  181. a catastrophic spawning season this year.
  182. I'm hoping that maybe the adults
    are avoiding that dirty water.
  183. They don't usually like to go into water
    that is very cloudy anyway.
  184. But these are really
    high-performance athletic animals.
  185. I don't know what this kind of stuff
    will do in their gills.
  186. I don't know if it'll affect the adults.
  187. If it's not, it's certainly affecting
    their eggs and larvae,
  188. I would certainly think.
  189. But if you look at that graph
    that goes down and down and down,
  190. that's what we've done to this species
    through overfishing over many decades.
  191. So while the oil spill, the leak,
    the eruption, is a catastrophe,
  192. I think it's important to keep in mind
  193. that we've done a lot to affect
    what's in the ocean, for a very long time.
  194. It's not like we're starting
    with something that's been OK.
  195. We're starting with something
    that's had a lot of stresses
  196. and a lot of problems to begin with.
  197. If you look around at the birds,
    there are a lot of birds in the Gulf
  198. that concentrate in the Gulf
    at certain times of the year,
  199. but then leave.
  200. And they populate much larger areas.
  201. For instance, most of the birds
    in this picture are migratory birds.
  202. They were all on the Gulf in May,
  203. while oil was starting
    to come ashore in certain places.
  204. Down on the lower left there
    are ruddy turnstones and sanderlings.
  205. They breed in the High Arctic,
  206. and they winter
    down in southern South America.
  207. But they concentrate in the Gulf
    and then fan out all across the Arctic.
  208. I saw birds that breed
    in Greenland, in the Gulf.
  209. So this is a hemispheric issue.
  210. The economic effects
    go at least nationally in many ways.
  211. The biological effects
    are certainly hemispheric.
  212. I think that this is one of the most
    absolutely mind-boggling examples
  213. of total unpreparedness
    that I can even think of.
  214. Even when the Japanese
    bombed Pearl Harbor,
  215. at least they shot back.
  216. And we just seem to be unable
    to figure out what to do.
  217. There was nothing ready,
  218. and, you know, as we can see
    by what they're doing.
  219. Mainly what they're doing
    is booms and dispersants.
  220. The booms are absolutely
    not made for open water.
  221. They don't even attempt to corral
    the oil where it is most concentrated.
  222. They get near shore...
    Look at these two boats.
  223. That one on the right
    is called Fishing Fool.
  224. And I think, you know, that's a great name
  225. for boats that think
    that they're going to do anything
  226. to make a dent in this,
    by dragging a boom between them
  227. when there are literally
    hundreds of thousands of square miles
  228. in the Gulf right now
    with oil at the surface.
  229. The dispersants make the oil
    go right under the booms.
  230. The booms are only
    about 13 inches in diameter.
  231. So it's just absolutely crazy.
  232. Here are shrimp boats employed.
  233. There are hundreds of shrimp boats
    employed to drag booms instead of nets.
  234. Here they are working.
  235. You can see easily
  236. that all the oily water
    just goes over the back of the boom.
  237. All they're doing is stirring it.
  238. It's just ridiculous.
  239. Also, for all the shoreline
    that has booms...
  240. Hundreds and hundreds
    of miles of shoreline...
  241. All of the shoreline that has booms,
  242. there's adjacent shoreline
    that doesn't have any booms.
  243. There is ample opportunity for oil
    and dirty water to get in behind them.
  244. And that lower photo,
    that's a bird colony that has been boomed.
  245. Everybody's trying to protect
    the bird colonies there.
  246. Well, as an ornithologist,
    I can tell you that birds fly, and that...
  247. (Laughter)
  248. and that booming a bird colony
    doesn't do it; it doesn't do it.
  249. These birds make a living
    by diving into the water.
  250. In fact...
  251. really what I think
    they should do, if anything...
  252. They're trying so hard
    to protect those nests...
  253. Actually, if they destroyed
    every single nest,
  254. some of the birds would leave,
  255. and that would be better
    for them this year.
  256. As far as cleaning them...
  257. I don't mean to cast any aspersion
    on people cleaning birds.
  258. It's really, really important
    that we express our compassion.
  259. I think that's the most important
    thing that people have, is compassion.
  260. It's really important
    to get those images and to show it.
  261. But really, where are those birds
    going to get released to?
  262. It's like taking somebody
    out of a burning building,
  263. treating them for smoke inhalation
  264. and sending them back into the building,
    because the oil is still gushing.
  265. I refuse to acknowledge this
    as anything like an accident.
  266. I think that this is the result
    of gross negligence.
  267. (Applause)
  268. Not just BP.
  269. BP operated very sloppily
    and very recklessly because they could.
  270. And they were allowed to do so
  271. because of the absolute failure
    of oversight of the government
  272. that is supposed to be
    our government, protecting us.
  273. It turns out that...
  274. You see this sign on every commercial
    vessel in the United States...
  275. You know, if you spilled
    a couple of gallons of oil,
  276. you would be in big trouble.
  277. And you have to really wonder
    who are the laws made for,
  278. and who has gotten above the laws.
  279. And there are things
    that we can do in the future.
  280. We could have the kinds of equipment
    that we would really need.
  281. It would not take
    an awful lot to anticipate
  282. that after making 30,000 holes
  283. in the sea floor of the Gulf
    of Mexico looking for oil,
  284. oil might start coming out of one of them.
  285. And you'd have some idea of what to do.
  286. That's certainly
    one of the things we need to do.
  287. But I think we have to understand
    where this leak really started from.
  288. It really started from the destruction
    of the idea that the government is there
  289. because it's our government,
  290. meant to protect
    the larger public interest.
  291. So I think that the oil blowout,
    the bank bailout,
  292. the mortgage crisis and all these things
    are absolutely symptoms of the same cause.
  293. We still seem to understand that at least,
  294. we need the police to protect us
    from a few bad people.
  295. And even though the police
    can be a little annoying at times...
  296. Giving us tickets and stuff like that...
  297. Nobody says that we should
    just get rid of them.
  298. But in the entire rest
    of government right now
  299. and for the last at least 30 years,
  300. there has been a culture of deregulation
  301. that is caused directly by the people
    who we need to be protected from,
  302. buying the government out from under us.
  303. (Applause)
  304. Now this has been a problem
    for a very, very long time.
  305. You can see that corporations were illegal
    at the founding of America,
  306. and even Thomas Jefferson complained
  307. that they were already bidding defiance
    to the laws of our country.
  308. OK, people who say they're conservative,
  309. if they really wanted to be
    really conservative and patriotic,
  310. they would tell
    these corporations to go to hell.
  311. That's what it would really mean
    to be conservative.
  312. So what we really need to do
    is regain the idea
  313. that it's our government
    safeguarding our interests,
  314. and regain a sense of unity
    and common cause in our country
  315. that really has been lost.
  316. I think there are signs of hope.
  317. We seem to be waking up a little bit.
  318. The Glass-Steagall Act...
    Which was really to protect us
  319. from the kind of thing
    that caused the recession to happen,
  320. and the bank meltdown and all that stuff
    that required the bailouts...
  321. That was put in effect in 1933,
    was systematically destroyed.
  322. Now there's a mood to put
    some of that stuff back in place,
  323. but the lobbyists are already there
    trying to weaken the regulations
  324. after the legislation has just passed.
  325. So it's a continued fight.
  326. It's a historic moment right now.
  327. We're either going to have an absolutely
    unmitigated catastrophe
  328. of this oil leak in the Gulf,
  329. or we will make the moment
    we need out of this,
  330. as many people have noted today.
  331. There's certainly a common theme
  332. about needing to make
    the moment out of this.
  333. We've been through this before
    with other ways of offshore drilling.
  334. The first offshore wells
    were called whales.
  335. The first offshore drills
    were called harpoons.
  336. We emptied the ocean
    of the whales at that time.
  337. Now are we stuck with this?
  338. Ever since we lived in caves,
    every time we wanted any energy,
  339. we lit something on fire,
    and that is still what we're doing.
  340. We're still lighting something on fire
    every time we want energy.
  341. And people say we can't have clean energy
  342. because it's too expensive.
  343. Who says it's too expensive?
  344. People who sell us fossil fuels.
  345. We've been here before with energy,
  346. and people saying the economy
    cannot withstand a switch,
  347. because the cheapest energy was slavery.
  348. Energy is always a moral issue.
  349. It's an issue that is moral right now.
  350. It's a matter of right and wrong.
  351. Thank you very much.
  352. (Applause)