On July 2, the U.S. Department of Justice and BP — one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies — announced that they had come to terms on a historic $18.7 billion settlement over damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. By any metric, this is an enormous sum of cash; for example, it is more than the gross domestic product of 83 countries, according to the World Bank. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced in a statement that, if ultimately approved, this restitution “would be the largest settlement with a single entity in American history”—appropriate considering that the spill was one of the worst environmental disasters to ever occur in the United States.
As the world population balloons toward more than 9 billion people by 2050, nations will need new resources from a finite amount of space to meet soaring demand. And as more people move to coastal regions, their minds will inevitably be drawn to the sea. After all, more than two-thirds of our planet is covered with ocean, and the seas boast tremendous economic development, transportation corridors, sources of oil and gas, and cornucopias of seafood. Oceans also provide less-tangible benefits that are often difficult to quantify, including moderating the planet’s climate by absorbing roughly 90 percent of the heat trapped by a thickening atmospheric blanket of carbon pollution. They produce more than half of the oxygen we breathe. In coastal regions, healthy coral reefs and other wetlands ecosystems safeguard communities from storm surges and flooding events, sequester massive amounts of carbon, and filter out other pollution produced on land.
“Is this local?”