On The Proposed Use of Cattail Fluff in the Cleaning Up of British Petroleum's Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Lakes, Rivers

As we contemplate the coming storm in the Gulf of Mexico in a national mind state which probably isn't too very different from that of a life-long drunk, pondering -- with a suicidal mix of violent fear and numbing denial -- another bone-cracking blow to an already disfigured face during an alley fight, there is, most hopefully, some lucidity to be had in this guest essay written by persons I've never even met. In a few weeks, they will be putting their research and theories to the test in Louisiana.

Before I introduce my guest essayists and their clean-up proposal for the British Petroleum corporation's planet-impacting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I want to re-emphasize that the avoidability (yes, avoidability; no, oil spills are not merely the cost of doing business, as some self-described, self-legitimizing "realists" might argue in their wholly suicidal logic) of this episode speaks directly to human nature and human error, and makes irrefutably manifest that any credible analyses of energy sources must now be done firstly with an eye toward unforeseeable worst-case scenarios. Simply put, going forward with any energy source whilst allowing unanswered questions to remain so in the interest of expediency is tantamount to a passive planetary suicide.

By this I most earnestly mean the current trend toward nuclear energy; President Obama speaks of it in mechanical cadence whenever he drops his litany of energy alternatives, and technocrat rock stars chirp about it on talk shows, but I find it morally imperative to insist that we take a longer view. I admit to being fully ignorant of the nuances of nuclear energy, though I don't count the decades of "incident-free" nukes as proof that it is manageable; rather, I see them -- and say, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island -- as harbingers of the statistical inevitability of another, possibly far greater, disaster.

So, in the midst of a globalized economy it might sound jingoistic to be concerned about (to give you two extreme scenarios), military or terrorist enemies of say, Japan or France targeting Japanese or French-built nuclear reactors in the US, I daresay it is completely foolhardy to discount such a possibility. The subway gas bombing in Japan or even the sporadic and seemingly minor civil unrest in France -- in addition to our own, internal threats -- are causes for a solemn concern and planned vigilance, more than I think we realize, or even dare to imagine.

Yet even when I completely ignore such a possibility (although I think Machiavelli's view on a sovereign nation's use of mercenaries in the battlefield would serve us well in considering our energy supply -- and, well, our battlefield strategy also, but I digress) the very thought of human nature factored in with history's grim realities makes me weak-kneed when I think of dealing with nuclear reactors and nuclear waste, and the terribly awesome power of unbridled Nature -- and human error and again, most importantly, Human Nature.

Herewith, an essay on how Nature may hold a secret, yet obvious remedy for our present, most recent set of potentially fatal human blunders.

The Bulrush Solution
Dirk Stass Inventor, Herbalist & Gabe Cipes, Permaculturalist

We are proposing to harvest in proper stewardship the Cattail (flower of the Bulrush plant) throughout the Gulf of Mexico and around the world to serve as the perfect natural solution to oil spills. While this idea is hardly new, it has not yet been attempted, perhaps because a single plant item cannot be patented.

We came to this solution through a simple process of observation: the Bulrush's function in nature is to clean and purify waterways all over the world, and it is found in nearly all swamp, marsh and lake regions, although it is classified as a weed.

Our experiments conclusively demonstrate that Cattail fluff will initially absorb 20 times its own weight in oil, and continue to float while holding together and remaining impermeable to water. We predict that the natural motion of the waves will infuse the oil into the Cattail on the surface. Slightly modified drift net boats with weighted nets could be dragged through the water. The Cattail could also be forced below the surface to absorb the oil, after which it would still rise to the surface. The oil-infused Cattail fluff can be easily lifted out of the water by multiple means, and the oil can actually be regained by press or centrifuge. Depending on when they are harvested, Cattail fibers will stay intact and can be reused up to ten times, which means that a single piece of Cattail fluff could absorb up to 200 times its own weight in oil.

We propose that after the crude oil has been extracted from the ocean, natural microbes be applied to transmute any leftover toxic residue, essentially composting the waste and adding nutrients to the ocean.

We believe this to potentially be the fastest, most environmentally sound solution for the ecology of the ocean and even the oil company, which could still profit on the oil that would be recouped (that is, the oil that isn't tarnished by the sea water.)

We have been invited to the Gulf of Mexico by the oceanographic artist Wyland to do a demonstration for the National Wildlife Federation early this August to establish whether large amounts of Cattail can be used to recoup the crude oil from the sea water as easily as our experiments show it removing different types of oil from a bucket of saltwater.

We do this not for personal gain; this solution is a gift from The Great Spirit to empower the people of the world with the knowledge to save their oceans for the future of all mankind.

During the course of a single day, one person can potentially harvest enough Cattail by hand to soak up 20 tons of oil from the ocean. We are working with Indian Tribes for permission to organize the harvest, as many of their lands have abundant Cattail plants. There are approximately forty Indian Tribes in the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas, all of which have high unemployment rates.

When harvesting Cattail, the ecosystems needs to be respected, as there are many animal nests and much biodiversity. We project that we will need to leave about 40% for seed. We only cull the flower tops, and thus we do no damage to the perennial plant, which is left to re-grow. The best time to harvest is during the winter, as it is the least disruptive to the ecosystem.

Here in the Okanagan -- or anywhere else the flower heads are mature, and not yet "fluffed-out" -- they can be harvested from autumn to early summer. When we go down to Louisiana this August for the demonstration, the Cattail should be ready to harvest.

Cattail grows all over the world, has no federal status for importing and there is presently far more than enough in existence to absorb all of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, with no damage to the ecosystem or the oceans, if properly harvested. The only after-effect would be the emergence of Cattail growing along the coastline.

In consideration of the human personnel handling the Cattail, we have designed a respiratory device to protect workers' metabolisms during the clean up. We have also been experimenting with a tea made from Horsetail that can be used in conjunction with the Cattail to clean oil off of the horribly impacted Animal Life.

Thank you for taking the time to read and understand that there is a natural solution to everything, that we are nature, and that everything we see around us is an extension of ourselves.

Gabe Cipes
Kelowna B.C. CANADA