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Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, is hosted by Tom Philpott. Tom’s guest today is Richard Charter.
Richard Charter is one of our most eminent authorities on how offshore drilling affects coastal ecosystems. When the Deepwater Horizons oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana last month, Charter’s expertise became invaluable to anyone trying to understand what the ongoing spill meant for the Gulf of Mexico, one of the globe’s most productive fisheries and vibrant ecosystems. Charter was one of the first commentators to raise questions about the heavy use of chemical dispersants to mitigate the effects of the spill. “There is a chemical toxicity to the dispersant compound that in many ways is worse than oil,” he told ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten, for a groundbreaking article (Chemicals Meant To Break Up BP Oil Spill Present New Environmental Concerns) that spurred my own investigations (What are we dumping into the Gulf to ‘fix’ the oil spill? and Chemical dispersants being used in Gulf clean-up are potentially toxic) into the dispersant topic.
Charter is Senior Policy advisor for Marine Programs for Defenders of Wildlife, and has thirty years experience working on offshore drilling issues with local and state elected officials and the conservation community. In addition, Richard presently serves as the Chair of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council.
In this edition of Victual Reality, I talk to Richard about what past oil disasters have meant for ecosystems, just what the hell is in those dispersants, and how the spill might affect the Gulf fishery.