Last night at 8:00, I saw The Simpsons. Rewind four hours and I was sitting at my desk writing about the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Turns out they are very much related. Sort of.
A little Marine Bio 101:
Dead zones are areas of the ocean devoid of fish, shrimp, and marine life. They’re basically just what they sound like. Every year, the Gulf of Mexico has this pesky habit of turning into a dead zone when runoff from fertilizers and animal waste in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basins is introduced leading to a state called hypoxia (oxygen depleted water). Excess nutrients promote the growth of phytoplankton (microscopic algae), and when they die and sink, they’re decomposed by oxygen-consuming bacteria. Soon nothing can breathe and that’s the recipe for a dead zone. The one in the Gulf of Mexico can span 8,000-plus square miles (nearly the size of New Jersey). Bad stuff.
And how does this relate to the world’s most dysfunctional family? Well the movie gets its start from an environmental crisis after Homer dumps a silo of pig manure into Lake Springfield. We see a skull and cross bones rise in its wake. There’s no explanation of how this would deplete oxygen, no call to action, and Lisa’s environmentalism comes across as preachy bordering on annoying. But then, the movie is meant to entertain not lecture, and we do pick up that dumping manure in lakes does enough harm to make even Blinky the Fish jealous.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but Groening did provide a little more reason to think about the what’s keeping our lawns green and washing down storm drains.. or at the very least, he just gave us reason to laugh. After all, that in itself, makes the planet a little better too.