A truly gorgeous summer day sailing around Block Island at hull speed is one of my fondest ocean memories. So is battling with a monster striper around midnight on the rocks of Cuttyhunk Island. (Landed and released.) I’ve also been lucky to enjoy any number of days on Buzzard’s Bay either cranking off the miles in a kayak, watching my small daughter catch her first porgie or diving off the fish dock deep into the cool, clean, green water.
I can’t think for a minute what deep shock and dread I’d feel if we had a truly disastrous oil spill such as happened with BP’s Deepwater Horizon. The 2003 spill from a barge collision in Buzzard’s Bay released at least 98,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil and those impacts were astonishing. Imagine the damage from a months long oil geyser such as happened with the Montara blowout that started on August 21 2009 and flowed for 72 days. Or, maybe you haven’t heard about the spill off the coast of Nigeria this week that is likely to extend over 900 square kilometers? Imagine that one hovering along Cape Cod National Seashore and washing up week after week. This spill was caused when oil was simply being pumped from the supposedly safer platform of a large storage tanker to a transfer vessel.
As happened with BP’s disaster, oil field catastrophes often cost human lives. You may not have been able to pick up one of the scarce stories in the US media about the sinking of a drilling rig off of Russia’s Sakahlin Island barely a week ago that has killed at least 50 workers. The rough waves, strong winds and icy waters are similar to the challenges of oil drilling in America’s Arctic sea — and should raise the same concerns. (How many workers are we going to be putting immediately at risk in the Arctic with a potential oil spill when the closest US Coast Guard station is 1000 miles away?) Even the source of last month’s oil spill hundreds of miles off of the coast of Brazil took eight days to locate and they don’t have to deal with icebergs. The list of oil spill disasters is growing so quickly that disasters are now seemingly routine. Yet, the ability to “clean up” hasn’t generally improved since the 1960s. The only real way to prevent a spill is to not drill in the first place.
So, I am giving thanks this weekend for a healthy, oil-free ocean and for my CLF colleagues and our allies who work hard to keep it that way. Like winter itself, the political storms will come and go and it is heartening to know there are dedicated, smart people willing to take on the challenge. The best way to keep our beaches and waters healthy, vibrant and clean is to keep supporting the people and organizations who work for a better future. Thank you all and Happy Holidays.