This Week in the Environment: Mass bird die offs not the apocalypse, oil still washing ashore in Louisiana

Blackbird

Dead birds everywhere (or so it seemed):

There was a lot of talk about dead birds falling from the sky in mass quantities. The reports started in Arkansas, but then we also saw reports from Louisiana, Sweden and elsewhere. Was this the sign of the coming apocalypse or some major, world-wide environmental disaster?

It turns out mass bird die offs are not uncommon. What has changed is that the media — especially the Internet — is running with this story. There are at least 10 billion birds in the U.S. at any given time — perhaps as many as 20 billion — and almost half die off each year from natural causes, according to ornithologist Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C.

If you want to read more about this, Eric Berger — the “SciGuy” at the Houston Chronicle — has  a rational (and not so rational) explanation for what happened.

The BP Gulf Oil Spill is making more news:

Earlier this week a government panel said that an oil spill like the Gulf Oil spill could happen again:

The crisis was not some fluke stemming from poor decisions by a handful of bad apples in the oil industry and in government. Instead, the commission decries an industry-wide problem: “the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”

We also learned that BP, Transcocean, and Halliburton could be facing corporate criminal charges because of the oil spill:

Months of investigation by a presidential commission and other panels reinforce the likelihood that companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will be slapped with criminal charges that could add tens of billions of dollars to the huge fines they already face, legal experts said Thursday.

But that’s not all the news about the oil spill. New reports started coming in about how oil from the spill was still washing up on Louisiana shores. Barataria Bay appears to be particularly hard hit:

The heavily saturated area that reporters saw was 30 feet to 100 feet wide in sections. No cleanup workers were there when reporters toured the area.

Here’s some of the other big news from this past week: