Psychological Impacts on Communities

In terms of slow violence, it is important to keep the humanistic aspect in mind. Disasters that impact multiple domains, like oil spills, are as much a social problem as they are an ecological one. One concept that is a consequence that can stem from oil spills is recreancy, which happens when social trust becomes endangered when institutional systems have failed to carry out their responsibilities (Cope). Mistrust and anxiety that individuals experience after oil spills shows how negative environmental consequences can reduce the stability of an individual’s foundation and increase their social insecurity.

Image result for deepwater horizon oil spill fishing

Statement art showing the spill’s impact on local communities. Source By: The Why Files [Public Domain].

In terms of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, many local individuals became disenchanted with the government. The unexpected negative, large-scale consequences that occurred after the spill caused a large majority to not trust given information from either BP or the federal government (Cope). In addition, the immediate lack of information directly following the spill exacerbated many individual’s negative perceptions of oil spill related dangers (Simon-Friedt). In a study using self-reported measures by Louisiana residents, many reported having more trust in family and friends in comparison to officials and scientists (Simon-Friedt). This is an important element of slow violence because the resiliency of a community can crumble when they feel as if they’re losing control over their environment.

Another element that came from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, is the association between psychosocial stress and resource loss. These resources included compensation, reduction in air quality, income, and community attachment (Ritchie). As a result of these stressors, avoidance behavior was demonstrated in local community members. This hindered community recovery and led to alienation of certain groups within communities because they felt excluded from the recovery compensation process (Ritchie). This shows how the secondary trauma of slow violence can negatively impact the culture of the town and how, for many local communities, their cultural and socioeconomic stability is tied to their environment. This, in turn, creates a sacrifice zone because lower income families, like fishermen, become more entrenched in their poverty due to the fact that society devalues the ecosystems impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.


Ecological Emotions


Cope, Michael R., et al. “It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose, It’s How You Place the Blame: Shifting Perceptions of Recreancy in the Context of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.” Rural Sociology, vol. 81, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 295–315.

Ritchie, Liesel A., et al. “Mitigating Litigating: An Examination of Psychosocial Impacts of Compensation Processes Associated with the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.” Risk Analysis: An International Journal, vol. 38, no. 8, Aug. 2018, pp. 1656–1671.

Simon-Friedt, Bridget R., et al. “Research Article: Louisiana Residents’ Self-Reported Lack of Information Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Effects on Seafood Consumption and Risk Perception.” Journal of Environmental Management, vol. 180, Sept. 2016, pp. 526–537.