Everyone seems to be calling the Deepwater Horizon spill the worst environmental disaster ever, but rumors of the Gulf’s death may be greatly exaggerated, writes Michael Grunwald of TIME. While there could be long-term ramifications from the spill, the damage so far actually looks pretty modest. It’s killed less than 1% as many birds as the Exxon Valdez spill, for example, and the region’s fish and shrimp have so far tested clean.
As for Louisiana’s marshes, the spill affected only about 350 acres of wetlands that were already disappearing at a rate of 15,000 acres a year thanks to oil and gas industry pipelines. One LSU professor likens the spill to “a sunburn on a cancer patient.” This is lighter crude than the Exxon spilled, experts explain, and Mississippi river currents are keeping it off the coast. “We're not seeing catastrophic impacts,” says one marine scientist. “There’s a lot of hype, but no evidence to justify it.”