A Drill too Far

by Guest Blogger

May 17, 2010

The following update is from Paul Horsman, a marine biologist with degrees from Newcastle University and Portsmouth Polytechnic in the UK, and an international campaigner with over 25 years experience at the forefront of campaigning on environmental and peace issues in many countries across the globe – 20 of these years with Greenpeace.
Oil On Louisiana CoastHere in the southern U.S. the land doesn’t just “meet” the sea so much as the land and sea “shake hands” with fingers of land and sea curving around each other creating a coastline of inlets and bayous hundreds of miles long. Its a unique flat land- and waterscape with willows, reeds, water lilies, and massively abundant bird and marine life. It’s a warm, sultry, slow and considered kinda place.
Access is by water, which is the determining element here. Carey (a local skipper) showed me where he’d been born and raised right in the middle of the bayou. As a kid he was picked up by the school-boat. His mother-in-law at 85 years is still getting around in her small aluminum boat. He took us out in his home-built boat. The water not only forges the environment and its wildlife, it molds the people; determines their work and lives.
The tension and fear is palpable as the tragedy unfolds just 50 miles offshore and a mile deep.
Each day thousands of gallons of oil are hemorrhaging from the ocean floor. All of us have been scanning the weather forecasts and listening to updates. Waiting for the oil to reach the shore, wondering what the hell is going on out there, and what this will all mean for wildlife, livelihoods and communities. Long after the media have gone, it is these that will be left to continue as best they can.
A woman at a public meeting on Thursday regaled a panel of EPA, coastguard and BP people asking them what about the future for her, her children and grand-children. The BP representative had slipped out of the door; although he was from New Orleans, he was clearly having some trouble trying to defend the indefensible.
So what is going on out there? BP has been injecting thousands of gallons of chemical dispersants into the oil underwater. These chemicals are poisonous and serve to simply break up the oil so that some sinks and spreads further but thinner and less obvious. Hundreds of miles of booms have been laid in attempts to stop the impending black tide; straw bales and absorbent materials have been laid along high tide marks; military trucks and helicopters deploy people and equipment; captains look out over their boats now moored in harbor.
With deep sea drilling, BP has been pushing the technology to its limits. This accident shows that they have pushed it beyond its limits. No one knows how to stop this spill. No one knows what the impacts are going to be of thousands of tons of crude oil spreading from the sea floor, injected with thousands of gallons of dispersant chemicals. Oil is toxic, dispersants are toxic and the combination is certainly going to have major impacts.
This isn’t the only tragedy. Last October I was in Northern Canada where Greenpeace is campaigning against the tar sands a frontier of oil development that is creating a big black mess. At each end of North America there is a huge black mess caused by the oil industry destroying the environment in their desperate grab for the remaining oil in the frontiers.
In the midst of these disasters the industry wants to move further into the fragile Arctic. Such short-sighted folly.
It has to stop. Although we cannot stop using oil tomorrow, we know we have to move away from using oil and all fossil fuels as quickly as possible. This shift begins by stopping the oil industry from going any further. As the oil continues to hemorrhage from the ocean floor here in the Gulf of Mexico a clear message should be sent to the government and the industry: Stop oil exploration and shift towards clean sustainable energy sources which are the future. The oil industry is the past.

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