Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Oil Spill

I wrote a lengthy piece at Global Comment on the oil spill. In part, I said:

Now we have the oil spill. This disaster will exacerbate the region’s problems. It will devastate the fishing industry. It could kill millions of birds, some of which are endangered species. Spring is the migration and breeding season and thus the spill’s damage to birds will be more far-reaching than if it happened in December.
But perhaps we can find a silver lining in this catastrophe. American reliance on oil imports means that we can remain ignorant about drilling’s effects. Not since the Santa Barbara, California oil spill of 1969 has a major spill affected the Lower 48 states. That previous incident helped shape the environmental movement that created the first Earth Day in 1970 and a tremendous amount of legislation during the next decade which cleaned up our rivers, air, and soil, placed industries under new regulations, and led to the recovery of many endangered species.
Moreover, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska turned much of the American public against oil drilling in our most beautiful places. Memories of this event and the millions of dead birds, seals, and fish made it impossible for George W. Bush to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling. Yet none of this has dampened Americans’ zeal for consuming foreign oil, where we can’t see the consequences.
Perhaps then it is better that the oil spill happened in the United States instead of Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela. A giant spill and subsequent environmental disaster means nothing to most Americans if it happens far away. The oil industry has created ecological and human catastrophes across the world for a century. But we keep driving our vehicles, oblivious to our impact upon the world. Seeing that damage in the form of oil-covered herons and alligators may create a moment for serious reflection of our actions.
 As they say, read the whole thing and such.