Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mother Nature Takes Over

Sometimes when the children make a mess, Mother Nature has to step in and clean it up.

The recent oil gusher in the gulf is a case where the children decided that it was safer for the environment to drill for oil way, way out at sea than, say, to drill in a desolate area of Alaska like Anwar, where there might be less damage to the environment. Evidently it makes more sense to go far out to sea, where the ocean is rough and currents are strong, and find a spot where it’s a mile down before you hit the ocean floor and drill there. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Way out at sea all was quiet until a pipe blew and oil gushed to the ocean surface and began to spread in a greasy mass off the gulf coast. The leader of the children acted quickly sending lawyers to the gulf to find someone to sue. That really didn’t solve the problem. The boys and girls in government thought and thought for days and days while the oil gushed and gushed, but they had no solution.

Individuals and privately owned businesses offered suggestions, but their ideas sat on the table as the leaders continued to pace the floor. Foreign governments offered to send clean-up ships to the gulf, but the leader hesitated in suspending the Jones Act, which prevents non-union ships in the gulf. So the government kept pacing and the oil kept leaking and the world kept watching.

The slick continued to spread, with globs and huge plumes of oil moving silently beneath the surface of the water. The damage had spread along the coast, causing the loss of jobs and destroying the economies of communities that depend on tourism, fishing and related industries for their survival. And the leaders paced the floor and thought and thought some more.

Finally the leak was plugged by the oil company and a clean-up effort began, but the prognosis for a pristine coast was not good. Miles of oil continued to expand.

Then a miracle happened. The oil suddenly began to disappear. People were swimming and fishing again. There was no explanation. Scientists ran to their microscopes. No one knew what happened to the oil, but the people rejoiced and their leader played another 18 holes of golf.

It was determined that a tiny microbe had begun consuming the oil. What the government, the experts and the scientists could not do, this tiny bacterium could do. This newly discovered microbe is said to be closely related to a petroleum-degrading microbe that operates deep in the cold waters of the ocean. But this was a new variety.

As we know, oil leaks constantly from the floor of oceans. Weird little microbes thrive way down there. There’s a species called Oceanospirillales that loves oil like Italians love spaghetti. This species thrives in deep, cold water, where temperatures have been recorded at 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit). This newly discovered microbe is related by marriage to Oceanospirillales and these little dudes love oil.

Some scientists were concerned that these little helpers would use up oxygen in the water, creating a “dead zone” where other marine life could not survive. But that seems not to be the case. Mother Nature took care of that one too and sent the children to bed.

It’s interesting that an army of microbes appears to be solving a problem that we human beings were incapable of solving. That must be a humbling realization for some. You know, the folks who think human beings are powerful enough to change the climate of the world.


  1. But Ralph, you forgot the Leader then claimed it was due to his leadership and the great government teamwork that saved the gulf!

    You're missing the credit where credit ain't due part!