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Carl Safina and Abrahm Lustgarten on the BP disaster and lessons learned

Reporter Abrahm Lustgarten and ecologist Carl Safina talk with Alison Stewart about lessons learned from the BP oil spill – its causes and effects, the state of the Gulf ecosystem today and the unavoidable comparisons to Exxon-Valdez. How necessary is offshore drilling? And do all those commissions and reports really say anything new?

Lustgarten said the disaster could have been prevented by making “any one of a dozen decisions.” He told Stewart: “BP has been more critical of itself than I or anyone else could be over the years. They have these accidents, one after another… from the Texas City explosion in 2005, and the pipeline spill in Alaska in 2006. And after each of these cases they go through this very introspective process, and they issue these lengthy reports. And the reports generally come out and say something along the lines of we have been too relaxed about safety. Our organization is complicated, and we need to shift our internal culture and yet months go by, and something happens again. And they appear to have an institutional inability to learn.”

For Safina, the real problem is not the oil that was spilled, but the oil that we use: “The oil that we burn, and the coal that we burn, and the gas that we burn, we’re doing it in ways where the carbon dioxide is constantly concentrating, not getting more diluted. It’s changing the heat balance of the whole planet. It’s putting agriculture at risk. It’s putting people in coastal cities at risk. It’s changing the chemistry of the ocean. It’s making the ocean more acidic. That’s really the catastrophe.”

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