“Permanently” is a long time. The earth and nature are really quite resilient and deal with things humans perceive as “damage” quite well. In one, two, three thousand years – or some other amount of time – there may well still be evidence of the oil, recorded in the sediments that will eventually become rocks, but “damage” will not be visible or measurable. The evidence of what must have been “disastrous” storms a billion years ago can be seen in the rocks of Glacier National Park.
Even on human scales – a lifetime or three – the likelihood is great that most of what a person would call “damage” will be minimal.
Damage from the oil spill is still very much there, although it’s hard to say how long it will last. Tar balls are still washing up on beaches, and a dive by scientists late last month showed that there is quite a lot of oil down there, both floating around and caking the ocean bottom. This oil continues to disrupt and kill underwater life. The closer you get to the well itself, the more devastating the damage is.
I’m sure that with thousands of years the ecosystem will recover, but it’s quite likely it will suffer a long time into the foreseeable future.
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