Disasters and Ecosystem Services Deprivation: From Cuyahoga to the Deepwater Horizon
20 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2011 Last revised: 27 Apr 2014
Date Written: March 14, 2011
On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig resulted in the release of substantial amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the viability of some of the world’s most essential ecosystems. Due to both the scale of the damage and the circumstances regarding the risks involved, the event has been appropriately labeled as a disaster. However, the Deepwater Horizon incident has also mobilized a large-scale investigation into the living technology through which the Gulf of Mexico and its ecosystems provide essential, life-supporting ecosystem services. This essay explores the manner in which environmental disasters require us to adapt our understanding of nature to a changed environment, forcing us to face the loss of valuable services provided by functioning ecosystems. This essay discusses the role of environmental disasters in the development of environmental law, then focuses on the opportunities provided by ecosystem services research in calculating the ecological, social, and economic value of natural resources impaired in such circumstances.
Keywords: ecosystem, Deepwater Horizon, oil, Gulf of Mexico, environmental disasters, natural resources
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