By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello, CNN
(CNN) – Fans of the Star Trek television series and movies will no doubt recall the recurring struggle between the emotional Captain Kirk and the logical Spock. Crises as big as the universe itself in the end were somehow averted as emotion and science put their very different heads together.
As for our very own earthly crisis, the giant oil spill in the Gulf, right now science is flummoxed. The best scientists and engineers can’t figure out how to stem the flow or prevent the oil from reaching shore.
Is it time for a little emotion?
"All you need to do is look at this brown pelican, our state bird,” an emotional Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal pronounced Thursday just feet from the oil drenched bird and in full view of a gaggle of reporters.
The governor is usually pretty low-key, but not these days. Here’s a sample:
"I don't want to see a drop of oil on Louisiana's coast!"
“Cut us a check!”
“This is their oil! Their damage! They caused this!”
And he’s not alone. It’s not often a U.S. congressman cries on the floor of the House. But that’s precisely what Rep. Charlie Melancon did the other day when describing the environmental disaster affecting his state.
There is a sense of doom here and, some say politicians in their eagerness to do something are calling for solutions that may not work, like giant, six foot high walls of sand – "sand berms." It’s a concept the politicians say has been in their Area Contingency Plan with the Corp of Engineers.
Governor Jindal, again:
“You wouldn't tell a drowning person give us time to do another study. You wouldn't tell a drowning person to just be patient. You would help them!”
President Obama finally agreed, under pressure. He has approved six berm sites, although just one is under construction.
Would these giant sand walls really work? Louisiana environmentalist Mel Landry says, “there are instances where they would be of benefit.” Landry studies the barrier islands and marshlands that Louisiana politicians are desperate to protect.
On a recent boat ride, Landry pointed to an island five miles off Grand Isle's coast. Workers here are restoring the beach, but the work gives us a picture of what it takes to build a berm.
Sand is dredged from the bottom of the Gulf and pumped from a barge to the islands where it gushes up on-shore. That sand could be used to build a berm. Landry has mixed feelings about the idea: “If they're trying to build a berm from across the front of every barrier island, where there is sensitive habitat for nesting birds, then it could have adverse impacts because these birds nest on the ground. Their nests are just little sand depressions they're laying the eggs in. So if you're all over that with a bulldozer, you're certainly going to be impacting those nests."
Landry adds the berms could be blown away in a hurricane and could also disrupt natural tidal flows if they're used to block "gaps" between barrier islands. Another very emotional Louisiana politician, Plaquemines Parrish President Billy Nungesser insists, “this is the only thing that can give us a fighting chance of saving south Louisiana.”
So, chalk up one for emotion: the berms will go up, BP will dole out $360 million for the project, and maybe science will be the better for it. Or not.