Back in July, Michael Grunwald wrote this piece for Time, in which he said the oil disaster "does not seem to be inflicting severe environmental damage.” Other reports followed — "Less severe than we thought?", "Where is the oil?", "Was Tony Hayward right after all?", all challenging speculation and actual research that the oil was A., still in the Gulf, and B., doing terrible things to it.
Time's Bryan Walsh now asks, "Whatever Happened to the Gulf Oil Spill?" — sarcastically, sort of. Walsh says the disaster didn't directly affect most news ADD-raddled Americans, so it vanished from the media's radar. (Sound familiar?). But then there's this:
What happened? Some lucky breaks helped — or hurt, depending on your perspective. Even though more oil was spilled by the Deepwater Horizon than any other event in U.S. history — 4.9 million barrels, by the government's most recent estimate — it happened more than 40 miles into the Gulf, meaning that much of the oil had evaporated or been digested by bacteria by the time the first patches reached the marshes of southern Louisiana. A spill closer to shore might have left the wetlands drenched, like the shores of Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez spill. The Gulf Coast was also lucky that it was never hit by a major hurricane this season — a storm at the wrong place and the wrong time could have pushed waves of oil up onto the land.
It's December — five months since Time ran Grunwald's piece — and here's where we are: Six months after the disaster, it moved courtside. Investigations and lawsuits are pending; toxicologists and fisherman are waging wars against the Food and Drug Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On the coast, it feels like the smoke clearing after trench warfare. The top brass are signing treaties, sure, but there are endless casualties on the frontlines. Response operations drastically scaled back, wildlife and fisheries continue to suffer, aid is desperately needed, and we're nowhere close to next year's catch or peak season, and nobody has any idea what that — along with other marine populations — will look like.
There's your short answer, Time.