Friday, May 14, 2010
Someone has recently created a tool that lets you compare the size of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to other parts of the world, in order to give some perspective as to the size, in exactly the same way as my post about the size of the Gaza Strip. It requires the Google Earth plugin though so I won't be trying it, but luckily this post on Daily Kos has a lot of examples, including Korea:
As the long-term perspective is always what I consider to be the most important in events like these, what I am most concerned with is whether this oil spill will bring about any large changes in energy policy, and whether that will result in a greater benefit in the long term than the negative effects from the current and ongoing environmental damage; that is the only yardstick by which we can know whether this will turn out to be simply a tragedy, or a good event (i.e. a wake-up call) in the long run.
A good example of this in another sphere is terrorism, where the US lost more due to its response to the 9/11 attacks in both lives and cost than to the attacks themselves due to using the momentum in public opinion at the time to go into Iraq, so this was a net loss. On the other hand, I believe the cocaine-loaded semi-submarines recently used by drug cartels are actually a good thing overall as they provide enforcement with practice in detecting these difficult ships when they have a relatively benign cargo - just drugs, compared to something more deadly like weapons.
The calculation after the oil spill is over will be an easy one: take a look at policies enacted after the oil spill that have been able to be enacted due to its occurrence (i.e. policies that would have been tough or impossible to drive through before), compare the total change produced compared to the damage caused by the spill, and if the net benefit there is greater than the amount from the spill then it will have turned out to be a good thing in the long run. It won't be for a few years until we are able to make this calculation though.