Coincidence or serendipity? Three historic events this April have coincided with a personal event that’s meaningful to me (author Claire Datnow) and, hopefully, to my readers. This month marks the tenth anniversary of the BP oil spill, the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Wow! What are the chances? Could this be the universe reminding me that my passion for writing eco mysteries is important and should continue?
I might also mention the strange coincidence my husband and I experienced on our recent cruise to Antarctica. Our stateroom was #1918, the year of the Spanish flu pandemic—and a hint at the COVID-19 pandemic. By sheer luck, the coronavirus missed us, but infected passengers on the next cruise—but that is a tale for another blog entry.
Today, we all feel a deep sense of anxiety as COVID-19 rages across our world. Ten years ago, we experienced the same sense of dread when the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig dumped nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the biggest offshore oil disaster in world history.
The catastrophe closed down business along the Gulf Coast at enormous economic cost. We witnessed the horrific images of oil spewing up from the ocean floor, people, birds, and marine life all suffering and dying amid flames and toxic oil. It took eighty-seven days to cap the well. After the disaster, BP was ordered to pay a bevy of penalty funds. These funds continue to provide a golden opportunity to repair the environmental damages caused by the spill, like the efforts of Audubon’s Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the Gulf coast once again.
Coincidentally, the forthcoming publication of my book Adventures of The Sizzling Six: Operation Terrapin Rescue was inspired by the BP oil spill. I hope my eco mystery series will motivate young people to take action to help prevent such future disasters.
Fifty years ago, Earth Day celebrations jump-started the modern environmental movement. Denis Hayes, the movement’s first organizer, points out that Earth Day has also come to focus on another threat to the planet: climate change, which fifty years ago “was not part of the national discussion.”
In the time of COVID-19, Earth Day 2020 has shifted to the digital realm. Although the present crisis is unprecedented, some aspects, which have worsened past crises, are familiar to us now:
- Warnings from scientists and medical experts are again being played down or ignored.
- Shortsighted profit and greed are shaping governmental and corporate decisions, which will worsen socioeconomic problems in the long run.
- In the ensuing chaos, shortsighted interests often overturn or subvert laws meant to safeguard and protect us.
And yet, I am optimistic! I am optimistic because I have had the honor to meet and join the courageous, dedicated, and visionary conservationists working, day after day, to protect and restore the quality of our air and water and the critical ecosystems on which all life depends.
At this moment, as the COVID-19 crisis continues, the anniversary of the BP oil spill passes almost unnoticed, and fiftieth Earth Day celebration takes place via digital media, we may well ask ourselves two important questions:
- What changes have these catastrophes set in motion that will repair broken systems to benefit humanity in the long run? One thing is for sure: structural changes are on way.
- What can each one of us can do, no matter how small, to protect and conserve the earth for future generations?
I would love to hear from you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.