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A Sea In Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout

1 rating: 5.0
2011 nonfiction book by Carl Safina

Carl Safina has been hailed as one of the top 100 conservations of the 20th century (Audubon Magazine) and A Sea in Flames is his blistering account of the months-long manmade disaster that tormented a region and mesmerized the nation. Traveling across … see full wiki

Genre: Nature & Ecology
Publisher: Crown
Date Published: April 19, 2011
1 review about A Sea In Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil...

Wading through leaking oil and official mumbo jumbo.

  • Nov 17, 2011
Carl Safina sounds angry and Lord knows he has a right to be.  As a noted author and highly-respected conservationist Safina was simultaneously sickened and emotionally devastated by just about everything he observed in the weeks and months following the deadly explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig off the Louisiana coast on April 20, 2010.  As soon as he heard about this catastrophe Carl Safina left his Long Island home and headed for the Gulf Coast to investigate. Over the next several months he would record all of his observations for posterity.  The result is his riveting new book "A Sea In Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout".  Some of the things you will discover about BP's woefully inadequate attempts to plug the leak will shock you.  But for those who pay attention to these matters much of what you will learn in this book will probably not surprise you at all.

Carl Safina is an unabashed liberal and darn proud of it.  But unlike limousine liberals Carl Safina actually walks the walk and talks the talk each and every day of his life.  As such, he is uniquely qualified to evaluate both BP's and state and federal government's response to this debacle.  He can smell half-truths and inconsistencies a mile away.  He has come to the Gulf to get to the bottom of the how and why of this blowout, to assess the extent of the damage to the environment and to understand the implications for those whose lives and livelihoods are directly affected.  He will conduct extensive interviews with fishermen, coastal residents, biologists and government officials. And like everyone else he fears the worst but hopes for the best.

For the uninitiated Carl Safina offers up a pretty detailed explanation of both the events leading up to the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon rig and of the explosion itself.  Obtaining this information was extremely difficult and time-consuming as it was apparent from the get-go that both BP and various government officials were stonewalling at every turn.  As Carl observes on page 176 of "A Sea in Flames":  "It could be a cleanup; it could be a cover-up. You can't tell. You can't tell because the Big People are undermining our ability to ask. But let's make it simple, people: Either there's freedom of speech or there isn't. Either there's freedom of assembly or there is isn't. Either there's freedom of movement or there isn't. Either there's freedom, or not."  Just who is in charge down here?  There seem to be so many obstacles to overcome to get at the truth.  Then there is all of that leaking oil.  Just how much is leaking? Is it 5000 barrels a day or 60000 barrels a day?  How long is it going to take to plug the leak?  It all depends on who you talk to.  As time goes on it is apparent that Carl Safina is becoming increasingly frustrated with this story.  He does not mince words and sometimes I find some of his commentary to be a bit over the top. He has extremely harsh words for a number of individuals including BP's embattled CEO Tony Hayward, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen (whom he constantly refers to as "Thadmiral") and NOAA administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco.  Everyone involved wishes they could wave a magic wand and make it all go away.

But there is so much more to this story than the explosion of an oil rig and the tragic loss of 11 lives.  "A Sea in Flames" also explores the potential impact of this event on the fragile Gulf Coast marshes and for the wildlife that inhabits it.  Environmentalists fear the worst and the sight of oil soaked fish, birds, waterfowl and sea turtles is positively heartbreaking.  Carl Safina attempts to separate fact from fiction but this is extremely difficult to do.  No one can say for sure what the lasting impact is going to be.  The same can be said for the fate of hundreds of thousands of residents who reside along the Gulf Coast and rely on the Gulf to make a living.  Their lives have been turned upside down and they face an extremely uncertain future. Perhaps this can be best summed up by an extremely moving display Carl happened upon during his travels:  "On a lawn, a graveyard of white crosses memorializes those departed: "Beach Sunsets", "Sand Between My Toes", "Marlin", "Sand Castles", "Dolphins", "Bluefin Tuna", "Crabbing", "Shrimp", "Sailing", "Beach Sunrises", "Summer Fun", "Sea Turtles", "Picnics on the Beach", "Floundering", "Flying a Kite"", "Sand Dollars", "Oysters On The Half Shell", ""Boogie Boarding"; there are about four dozen more."  You get the picture.....paradise and the ability to make a living lost in one fell swoop. Your heart goes out to these people.

When all is said and done I carried away two important lessons from Carl Safina's exhaustive investigation into the Deepwater Horizon affair.  Not surprisingly, BP really had no plan in place to deal with a leak of this magnitude.  Skimming, burning and the use of dispersants were simply no match for this situation.  The response to this tragedy was essentially the same as it would have been two decades ago but now we are drilling far deeper wells that necessarily involve far greater risk. This is simply unacceptable and needs to be addressed forthwith.  Likewise, according to Admiral Thad Allen the federal government stopped doing R&D on responding to these kinds of potential spills in the 1990's due to "budget cuts".  If this is true it would help to explain why the Feds could not do more.  As Carl Safina points out time and again in "A Sea of Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout" the American people are as much to blame for all of this as anyone else.  Clearly we are all too dependent on cheap fossil fuels and do not seem to understand the true cost of using them.  "A Sea In Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout" is a thoughtful and extremely well-written book which I would compare quite favorably to Riki Ott's "Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill" which I read a couple of years ago.    Very highly recommended!
Wading through leaking oil and official mumbo jumbo. Wading through leaking oil and official mumbo jumbo. Wading through leaking oil and official mumbo jumbo. Wading through leaking oil and official mumbo jumbo.

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November 18, 2011
I only have a superficial understanding of the BP devastation so I think this book may be a perfect fit for me so that I can get educated about what actually happened. Great review, Paul!
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