This widely circulated photo effectively condenses three elements of the now painfully familiar visual rhetoric of the environmental disaster that is the BP oil spill. There's the oil, of course, here a reddish-brown splotch literally tarring the sand of an Alabama beach and oozing in directions difficult to predict. There's the wildlife, illustrated here in the form of a hermit crab dangerously close to the oil. Is the shell occupied or has its vulnerable and desperate resident skedaddled to safer terrain? Hard to know. Finally, there's the footprint. We might find its implication that humans are to blame as bordering on the cliche, but look carefully and you'll see the deep impression of a lug-soled boot, heel dug firm into the sand. That footprint moves beyond blame to emphasize that there's so, so much work to be done.
Image credit: AP/John David Mercer (Press-Register), "A hermit crab and oil that washed ashore along the Gulf of Mexico coastline of Dauphin Island, Ala. are seen inside a boot print Tuesday June 1, 2010."