Thursday, January 10, 2008

Natural Attenuation

In 1979 there was an oil spill in Minnesota. 1.7 million liters of crude oil spilled. Unfortunately, the same pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Chicago, had another spill in November. Oddly enough, in 1979 I was at a small Montessori school in Maine, and right around then I remember the country trying to go metric. That plan failed, and as a result I don't really know the size of that spill -- barrels or gallons would register to me, but I don't want to look at the conversion. This is in part because I just attempted to read the start of about 100 pages of scientific abstracts and have already killed all my pre-coffee abilities.

Anyway, scientists started studying the site in 1983, and have been following the long-term effects of oil spills through the site over all this time. There was a story on NPR at the end of November. Here's the official website for the project.

One of the things they found was that oil eating bacteria naturally grew up around the spill.

I love this.

They found that the natural microbial population that feeds on the oil prospered. The organisms immediately started consuming the oil and regenerated, causing a bloom, what scientists call natural attenuation.

That we -- we, now, meaning all things living -- adapt to where we are and the environment to find our nourishment is one part. The sheer beauty and resourcefulness of life is astounding -- refreshing and hope offering.

I went to a poetry reading last night that offered that kind of glimpse into reality -- as if to say, all this you spend all your time thinking about -- spills and greed and consumerism -- all this is big on one level, and very small on another. Where we as a globe will move to is bigger than any of these issues -- driven by forces larger... even as we insert our power onto nature it will have it's way, in time.

On the other hand, there seems another story about nature that also seems human -- that everything that happens will spawn what consumes it ...

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