When you hear the word “unprecedented,” look for precedents.
It used to mean “lacking record of similar events in the past.” Now “unprecedented” seems to mean “very, very bad.”
A few months ago the President of the United States said of the Gulf Coast oil spill that “we’re dealing with a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.”
Apparently, the Exxon Valdez fiasco wasn’t precedent enough.
But hey: When looking for precedents, look to nature. Oil exists in the Earth’s crust. It occasionally seeps out. Naturally.
How do we know this? I mean, besides the fact that oil seepages were historically recorded, and considered a bane until oil’s industrial utility was discovered, and then considered a boon?
Well, biologists have discovered microbes in the deep sea oil spills, vigilantly eating up oil. And it’s a new species. That is, new to us.
The AP reports how the microbe “thrives in cold water, with temperatures in the deep recorded at 41 degrees Fahrenheit,” and goes on to say that one researcher speculates “that the bacteria may have adapted over time due to periodic leaks and natural seeps of oil in the Gulf.”
Happily, the bacteria does not appear to cause inordinate oxygen depletion (radically reduced oxygen in the seas could lead to massive death, including vast species extinctions).
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.