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What does real Gulf Coast restoration look like?

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When the BP oil spill was in full force last year, I was disappointed about the way the spill was being portrayed as a one-off disaster, instead of what it really was: the latest chapter in the degradation of the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, we had to clean up the spill, but we also had to look at the bigger picture of agricultural pollution, dredging wetlands to create canals for the oil and petrochemicals industries, and other actions that endangered coastal and marine ecosystems. These observations were necessary for the environmental health of the Gulf, as well as its continued productivity for sustainable human use.

I was certainly not the only one making this case, and others definitely have more resources to back themselves up. The Pew Center for the Environment has put some of its own considerable weight behind a study of the ongoing destruction of the Gulf ecosystem, as well as a broad approach to restoring its health. Released at the end of September, “A Once and Future Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem” brings together “eighteen preeminent ocean scientists” to look at the region’s big picture and make recommendations for full-scale Gulf recovery, beyond cleaning up the oil.

These scientists looked at the complex system of the Gulf, and made recommendations based on that viewpoint. Obviously, assessing and repairing the damage from the spill was an important part of their suggestions, but they also took a look at agricultural practices along the Mississippi River (which contribute to Gulf “Dead Zones”), and the connection of inland ecosystems to the Gulf. They also suggested involving the residents of the Gulf region because of their economic dependence on the health of coastal and marine environments and their direct experience with these places. While I can’t say it’s the most thorough set of recommendations made since the spill, it is the most wide-ranging study I’ve come across.

The report itself is pretty long, but an executive summary gives a thorough overview of the themes considered and the recommendations made. It’s well worth a browse if you’re still concerned about the status of the Gulf after the spill.

via Delta Dispatches and @EnvDefenseFund

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Image credit: Sewtex at Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.