The BP oil spill is clearly a major catastrophe. It is certainly the greatest environmental disaster for the United States in at least the last 75 years. The coverage of it in the media has been wall to wall but largely of the moment and filled with the human side of the tragedy for Gulf Coast residents. This is a quick, high level look at what the BP oil spill might mean for our future.
The damage and changes that this catastrophe will cause might be much larger than current thinking. Of course we know about the lost jobs and way of life of the shrimpers, fishermen, oyster companies and the financial hardship of the tourist resorts on the gulf beaches. We get the typical human interest stories from all the news outlets, with earnest reporters in waders and work shirts speaking with the poor gulf folks whose entire lives have been destroyed.
The economic fall out is going to be much larger in the next few months that just those that live close to the water in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida. I have spoken to people on the west coast of Florida that tell me that businesses south of Tampa are down 15-25% from last year, which was one of the worst years in a long time. This is because it has been called “The Gulf Oil Disaster”. The oil slick is hundreds of miles away but it is severely impacting retail sales, housing sales, in addition to tourism on the entire west coast of Florida. It could turn out that this oil spill will take all the gulf coast states back into recession. That is the human and economic short term cost.
The BP disaster is clearly a teachable moment about petroleum and energy. It could, and should be a strong impetus to look at petroleum as the 20th century source of energy we must replace with alternative and renewable sources of energy for the 21st century. It is so clear that our reliance upon oil has contributed to climate change, funded terrorism and is now destroying a part of our wonderful country.
The consequences of what this disaster is doing to the animal and plant life in the gulf is yet to be measured. If it continues much longer, this underwater oil geyser could well make the entire Gulf of Mexico a relative dead zone. Humanity has yet to fully understand the crisis that is coming regarding the oceans of the world. The level of animal life in the oceans has declined 70% in the last forty years due to over fishing by humans. This oil spill catastrophe could accelerate the timeline when humanity might have to declare a several year moratorium on seafood consumption. Sushi and seafood lovers, think on that one. We all know that life started in the oceans; that life comes from the oceans. If we allow the oceans to become lifeless, we have sentenced our species to extinction.. Are you ready to make the sacrifice of not eating seafood for five years? This BP disaster could well be a trigger event to such a reality. The oceans were already being destabilized by humanity, and then this happens.
So short term the oil spill is an environmental disaster of the highest level; a trigger for falling back into recession, at least for 3-5 states and the end of a way of life for tens of thousands of people. Mid-term it will make a number of countries take a long hard look at drilling for oil off their coasts and to some degree slow the development of deep ocean drilling. This will most likely affect the global price of oil. Long term it could well be the event that will turbo charge the move toward alternative fuels (if not, shame on us) and could be the event that accelerates the need for humanity to stop eating plants and animals from the oceans.
We must think of all of this as we face our post BP Gulf of Mexico global reality.
In early May I had the great opportunity to deliver two speeches in Dubai. It was my first time there and I have had a fascination regarding the U.A.E. for years. It had seemed to me to be one of the few places that was actually building toward a future with a several decades out perspective.
Of course Dubai got whacked with a debt problem stemming from the global financial meltdown of 2008-2009, but so have the EU and the U.S. Yes, there were a number of unfinished buildings to be seen but I have seen that all across the U.S. in the past 18 months.
Frankly I was extremely impressed with what Dubai has accomplished in such a short time. As a keynote speaker I was asked by a number of people what I thought of Dubai. Knowing this would be a consistent question I quickly came to a concise and honest answer to the question “So, what do you think of Dubai”. The answer: “As a futurist I feel like I am home”.
Below are three columns I have written about Dubai. Two, about “the 21st century city” are from my own blog, www.davidhoule.com/evolutionshift-blog/ and the third is a column on the future of shopping from my columns at www.oprah.com . Some of you of course have read these columns, but for those of you who haven’t, just click on the links below.
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