The Socio-environmental Implications and Effects of the Gulf Oil Spill: Impact on Citizens, Rights, and Recovery in the Debate Over Accountability

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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was an environmental catastrophe that wreaked havoc on populations, habitats and livelihoods within the gulf region. As most studies inspect the environmental impacts resulting from this type of event, I have chosen to examine the implications of the conflicts that arise over the management of the spill within the state of Louisiana (the clean-up and response to victims). This study provides a lens into understanding how the claiming of rights and the abdication of responsibility gets played out through these debates. Investigating these disputes between British Petroleum (BP), the Louisiana State Government, the national government and the Louisiana victims allows for a more in-depth look into how the handling of disasters can further exacerbate the problems these regions face. In this study a variation of national and local newspapers were used to gather information over the discourses of the debate. These two perspectives provided a spectrum of political viewpoints, public opinions and experiences that were useful in the analysis. These include the various ways that the debate was framed by key parties involved, how the displacement of blame developed and how the eligibility requirements and process of the BP compensation fund had severe implications for the victims. These investigations add to our understanding of how the shifting of responsibility, the accessibility of rights, the acts of blaming and acceptance of accountability develop and persist in the wake of this detrimental calamity. This study is part of a growing body of research on environmental citizenship within the field of political ecology. In uncapping information on the interpretations and progression of disputes over managing the spill, this project will be able to contribute to future research on similar topics.

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