Carl Safina has been hailed as one of the top 100 conservations of the 20th century (Audubon Magazine) and A Sea in Flames is his blistering account of the months-long manmade disaster that tormented a region and mesmerized the nation. Traveling across the Gulf to make sense of an ever-changing story and its often-nonsensical twists, Safina expertly deconstructs the series of calamitous misjudgments that caused the Deepwater Horizon blowout, zeroes in on BP’s misstatements, evasions, and denials, reassesses his own reaction to the government’s crisis handling, and reviews the consequences of the leak—and what he considers the real problems, which the press largely overlooked.
Safina takes us deep inside the faulty thinking that caused the lethal explosion. We join him on aerial surveys across an oil-coated sea. We confront pelicans and other wildlife whose blue universe fades to black. Safina skewers the excuses and the silly jargon—like “junk shot” and “top kill”—that made the tragedy feel like a comedy of horrors—and highlighted Big Oil’s appalling lack of preparedness for an event that was inevitable.
Based on extensive research and interviews with fishermen, coastal residents, biologists, and government officials, A Sea In Flames has some surprising answers on whether it was “Obama’s Katrina,” whether the Coast Guard was as inept in its response as BP was misleading, and whether this worst unintended release of oil in history was really America’s worst ecological disaster.
Impassioned, moving, and even sharply funny, A Sea in Flames is ultimately an indictment of America’s main addiction. Safina writes: “In the end, this is a chronicle of a summer of pain—and hope. Hope that the full potential of this catastrophe would not materialize, hope that the harm done would heal faster than feared, and hope that even if we didn’t suffer the absolutely worst—we’d still learn the big lesson here. We may have gotten two out of three. That’s not good enough. Because: there’ll be a next time.”
MacArthur "Genius" Award winning oceanographer and conservationist Safina offers an impassioned, on the ground chronicle of the 2010 Gulf oil blowout that surpassed Exxon-Valdez to rank as the worst in history. He breaks down the political and corporate causes and the environmental effects of the spill: the bedding together of government and Big Oil that produced the perfect storm of deregulation and drilling incentives; the intricate chain of misjudgments by BP, Transocean, and Halliburton; the mind-boggling amount of oil 4.9 billion barrels that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico; the numbers of dolphins, birds, and sea turtles that perished; the rig workers, fishermen, bait shop owners, and restaurateurs who lost their lives or businesses to the spill. Safina's witticisms at times fall flat he can only refer to Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen as "the Thadmiral" or refigure BP's initials as "Bullying People," "Billowing Petroleum" or, worst yet, "Bull Poop" so many times before the joke exhausts itself. However, as Safina registers his responses in the wake of the spill, from outrage to cautious hope, his account achieves a broad, reasoned perspective that frames events against the more insidious damage that farm and industrial runoff, canal-digging, levee-building, and rising sea level have wrought on the Gulf and its wetlands.