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Gulf spill shows our oily reflection

By Jane Velez-Mitchell, HLN
  • Jane Velez-Mitchell says Gulf spill vividly illustrates the shared fate of humans and animals
  • Marine life, including endangered turtles, and birds are threatened by the spill, she says
  • It hurts humans, too: tourism, fishing, home values facing damage, she says
  • Velez-Mitchell: The spill must make people awake to the impact of their daily choices

Editor's note: Jane Velez-Mitchell hosts "Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell," a topical event-driven show with a wide range of viewpoints that airs every night at 7 p.m. ET on HLN.

New York (CNN) -- The days of man vs. nature are over. Today, with environmental catastrophes a daily occurrence, the interests of animals and humans dovetail as never before. It's not either them or us. We're both facing the same monstrous threat.

Nothing illustrates this more than the ongoing horror in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil spill that the designers can't seem to contain is wreaking unfathomable devastation on humans and animals. The eruption began April 20. Ten days later sea turtles began washing up dead. Of course authorities say they have to do animal autopsies to determine whether oil caused their death.

But nearly 100 sea turtles have washed up along the shores of the Gulf since the spill began.

Recently, a CNN reporter was in a boat as his photographer captured video of a nearby sea turtle struggling pathetically at the surface of the oil-soaked water. Ingesting oil can be deadly for turtles.

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And five of the world's seven species of sea turtles are found in the Gulf of Mexico, all of which are listed as either endangered or threatened!

The timing is especially bad for sea turtles and birds. It's springtime, which means nesting time. Now, animal lovers in the Gulf are in a race against time to keep the oil from reaching pristine nesting areas.

Meantime, humans are suffering in a different way. Tourism that relies on beautiful beaches is already suffering, just as we enter the summer beach season.

Homeowners are seeing their property values threatened. Shrimpers and restaurant owners are all affected.

It's time to wake up to the impact our daily choices have on the world around us. The natural world is not indestructible. Even before this oil spill, huge swaths of the Gulf had turned into oxygen-starved "dead zones" because of the runoff from industrial factory farming that travels from the Mississippi River into the Gulf, creating algae blooms.

Taking care of our families isn't just about putting food on the table today. It's about ensuring that our children and grandchildren will have a habitable world where they can get to know various species of sea turtles.

Do we really want our legacy to be a dead, ugly planet, filled with waste where nature's creatures exist only as taxidermy?

Every decision we make -- when we choose a vehicle, when we pump gas into that vehicle, when we order food -- is not just a personal lifestyle choice. It's an environmental and moral choice.

None of us are directly responsible for the monstrosity in the Gulf.

But, indirectly, we must all ask ourselves: Have our daily choices been in our long-term self interest?

Look into the oily surface of the tainted water. We will see ourselves reflected.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jane Velez-Mitchell

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