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A Pelican, a Butterfly and the BP Oil Spill

July 17th, 2010 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, is the American White Pelican, who is currently hanging about at Second Marsh in Oshawa, a refugee from the April 20 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

The pelican is creating quite a stir among local birdwatchers who are going out of their way to see it. Pelicans, you see, are not normally found in this area. They winter in the gulf states and breed in parts of central U.S. and western Canada.

It’s not unheard of for birds to wander out of their normal territory. It happens occasionally to the delight of those of us fascinated with our feathered friends. No one seems to know quite why it happens. Perhaps something in the bird’s inborn radar has gone wrong.

But what if this pelican made the trip up here to symbolize for us the far-reaching effects of the BP oil spill?

Yes, we’re all very much aware of the situation. We’ve seen the video clips of the oil plumes billowing out of the well 5,000 feet below the surface. We’ve seen the heart wrenching photos of sea birds coated in oil. And we’ve heard about the devastating impact on the local economies which depend on fishing or tourism.

But all of this is taking place 1,300 miles away. We know it as the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Thankfully, we think, it doesn’t affect us directly. Or does it?

What if the “butterfly effect” metaphor is really accurate? I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies of chaos theory from which this metaphor arises. But the basic idea is that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can create enough of a disturbance to cause large scale atmospheric motion with ripple effects around the world.

Sounds farfetched? Think back a few years to the great northeast blackout of 2003. A 3,500 MW power surge in the New York State power grid set off a chain reaction that left 10 million people in Ontario and 45 million people in eight U.S. states without electricity. A pretty convincing argument for the “butterfly effect”.

So if a 3,500 MW power surge could cause that amount of trouble over such a wide area, the same chaos math applied to hundreds of millions of litres of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico is a frightening prospect indeed.

1,300 miles is not much more than one flap of a butterfly’s wing in that scheme of things.

So let’s consider that American White Pelican hanging out in Oshawa to be a metaphor for the long term – and long distance – effect of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It affects us all from one end of the planet to the other.

And let us not forget that 11 lives were lost when the explosion happened. 11 human beings whose bodies were never found. Think of the families of those workers… and the friends of those workers… and the disruption in the cosmic flow caused by 11 lives snuffed out for no good reason.

I don’t think the pelican just got lost. I think he made the trip for a very good reason. We’d better start paying attention.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

~ Subscribe to “Michael’s Metaphors of Life Journal aka Things That Make Me Go Hmmm” at its’ internet home Instructions for subscribing are provided in the “Subscribe to this Blog: How To” instructions page in the right sidebar. If you’re reading this post on another social networking site, come back regularly to my page for postings once a week.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 custom chrome rims Sep 11, 2010 at 4:42 pm

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  • 2 Michael Dyet Sep 12, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Glad you connected with this posting.

  • 3 Sang Mantel Jan 26, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Most of the times blogs are the same but i honestly enjoyed what i read. Grats !

  • 4 Michael Dyet Jan 26, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Thanks so much. I’ve tried to carve out a new niche and it seems to be working.

  • 5 Goji Beeren Jan 30, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Is this a blog? Where would you get the particular theme through?

  • 6 Michael Dyet Jan 30, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Yes, Metaphors of Life Journal is my blog. I use WordPress software and the “Cutline” theme.