Today is the 28th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster. The Exxon Valdez was a huge oil tanker that ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and spilled eleven million gallons of crude oil into the water.
The result was an ecological nightmare that has taken decades to recover from, and the recovery is not complete yet. Many species of animals suffered, most of all sea birds, of whom 250,000 were killed and their habitat completely ruined. Also killed were 2800 sea otters, 300 seals and 900 bald eagles. Salmon and herring egg losses were extensive. Populations of killer whales and many other species are still smaller today than at the time of the spill.
The ship was being piloted by Third Mate Greg Cousins at the time of the accident, as the Captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was in his quarters. He was accused of being drunk at the time, though this was not proven in court. He was convicted of negligence. His punishment was a fine (paid by Exxon), and some community service.
Thirteen hundred miles of pristine shoreline were damaged.
Click on any of the thumbnails below for a full-sized image.
Some laws and regulations were created in the aftermath of the disaster, mainly the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which “streamlined and strengthened EPA’s ability to prevent and respond to catastrophic oil spills”.
But there has been little advancement in the technologies available for clean-up, as became evident after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.
Ecological threats from offshore drilling, oil shipping, and oil pipeline expansion are at least as serious today as they have always been. And it’s the consumption of fossil fuels that’s the greatest contributor to global warming, which is causing huge changes and destruction for living things everywhere on earth. The largest living thing of earth, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is dying.
And of course the creation of billions of tons of plastic from petroleum products, much of which ends up in the ocean, also is killing wildlife. See this previous post for a description of what’s going on in these pictures:
And the pressure on habitat caused by human expansion, encroachment, and recklessness threatens big parts of the planet. Almost 300 square miles the Amazon rain forest has already been lost. The pressure on large animals is the greatest, and many species that were familiar to us for thousands of years now face extinction. Their loss of habitat is a disaster and it has become increasingly common for them to wind up in captivity, and that captivity is now often in private hands of individuals, not zoos, wildlife parks and the like.
The animals rarely flourish in these settings, often stop breeding, and live a pretty horrible life in any case. And they’re more and more at risk from various other human activities while in our “care”. Two weeks ago, a rare four-year-old white rhinoceros named Vince was killed in a zoo in France by poachers who wanted his horn.
To me, this one fact tops them all: there are more tigers in captivity in Texas than there are alive in the wild.
And here’s how it can end for them:
These animals were shot by sheriff’s deputies in 2011 in Zanesville, Ohio when the owner of a private “animal farm” opened their cages and then committed suicide. The 48 animals killed included 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions.
The Trump administration will not be moving to improve the situation. They have swept aside objections to the Dakota Access Pipeline, installed the former CEO of ExxonMobile as Secretary of State, and proposed slashing the budget of the Environment Protection Agency while installing a climate-change denier as its chief.
At a crucial point in the fight to slow down the destruction of our environment, we have elected a man oblivious to environmental protection, and who is seemingly determined to achieve the opposite. Actually “oblivious” isn’t the right word – he’s aware of the issues, but regards them as a hoax.
In other words, the battle is already lost. We’ve lost our way.
We’ve lost our way, and we’ve apparently lost our minds as well.