The Environment on the Internet: The Case of the BP Oil Spill
3 Elon L. Rev. 211 (2012)
St. Johns School of Law Research Paper No. 12-0024
69 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2013 Last revised: 14 Mar 2016
Date Written: December 12, 2012
The 2010 BP Oil Spill killed eleven workers and contaminated the Gulf of Mexico on a grand scale. It presented a spectacle of technology run amok, revealing environmental risks we prefer to ignore. The Spill sparked outrage and it evoked society-wide efforts to respond to the disaster: ideas and support came from engineers and biologists, hair dressers and plumbers. The internet was an essential medium for following and learning about the event and for offering help to those who were close to the emergency. This article reviews the history of the Spill and describes the many ways that experts and lay people relied on the internet to react to the situation in the Gulf. It then discusses the evolving legal context that frames disasters like the Spill. The internet is essential to adequate management of and democratic deliberation about the use of environmental resources. As we enter a period of increasing dislocations associated with climate change, the internet will enable the development of social infrastructure for adaptation and resilience.
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