America's politicians and government officials have been slow to grasp the importance of societal resilience – the ability to recover from or adapt to adversity. Sufficient resilience can minimize the impacts of debilitating disruptions – whether they be unavoidable natural disasters such as hurricanes or oil spills like the current one off the Louisiana coast. The latter is a case in point: A potentially effective high-tech method to mitigate the effects of oil spills was killed by federal regulators.
During the 1980s, microorganisms genetically engineered to feed on spilled oil were developed in laboratories but Draconian federal regulations discouraged their testing and commercialization and ensured that the techniques available for responding to these disasters remain low-tech and marginally effective.
They include methods such as deploying booms to contain the oil, spraying chemicals to disperse it, burning it and spreading absorbent mats.