World News

Systematic Ignorance of Pollution and Oil Spills

By Bridie Strowe- Bolger ’24

Human innovation in the modern world has had unbelievably adverse effects on our planet because of our inability to change. The energy crisis, in particular, has had an unbelievably devastating impact as the primary cause of climate change and refugees. While we do not hear of them very often, oil spills are more devastating than many believe. These kill off entire ecosystems and also require months of clean-up for polluted shorelines. Oil spills also pollute air and water, which cause decreased immunity and several organ diseases in humans when directly exposed to contaminants.

Oil spills peaked in 1974 (Over 110 spills), yet the number has decreased significantly in the 21st century, while 2020 experienced only three spills. However, despite the number’s remarkable decline, oil spills continue to pollute our planet. A recent spill, called “Catastrophic” by Reuters, caused a 13-mile slick (a stretch of oil in a body of water) along California’s coast, dumping about 25,000 gallons into the Pacific. As dead birds and sea life washed up on the shoreline from Huntington to Newport, and near-permanent pollution in wetland reserves, a large-scale clean-up effort was made to contain the spill before it worsened. After recovering approximately 5,500 gallons, the beaches were pronounced ‘safe’ for use by the area’s coastguard. 

While oil spill statistics indicate a wonderful drop in recent years, conscious negligence represents a serious problem, especially in the U.S., proven by many politicians’ actions. The Coast Guard’s recent investigation has been the primary source of the existing issues in the industry. After receiving a tip in early October, the Coast Guard boarded the ship believed to have caused the pipeline rupture by dragging their anchor over it. However, upon further investigating, they realized that the pipeline had already been damaged, going back possibly as far as 2020. After the Catastrophic spill, one musician, who lost business when Huntington Beach closed, sued Amplify Energy, bringing a small sense of justice for the destroyed wildlife. Interestingly though, this ‘justice’ was only pursued after the offense in question affected a California musician’s business. This fact is indicative of humanity’s carelessness for the environment, proving that the only swift justice for pollution perpetrators is administered when the negative effects are on people. 

Many governments, primarily in Europe, are making a strong effort to ‘go green’ in terms of their energy consumption, however, the US government has a slightly more capitalist approach. Many American politicians have strong ties with the oil industry, which contributes greatly to their reservations about limiting the power of the oil industry. This fact is evidenced by more than inaction, politicians have openly voiced their views on oil’s effects. Markwayne Mullin being one example of this, he states “You can’t have oil without oil spills”, indicating a lack of attention for the negative effects this industry has.

With systematic ignorance throughout our government due to a capitalist drive among politicians, justice for destroyed ecosystems is near impossible to get. However, one of the few upsides of our capitalist economy is people’s ability to influence businesses based on their beliefs. This is demonstrated through Amplify Energy’s (The company responsible for the California oil spill) jaw-dropping 63% drop in shares.  It seems like only a hammering to a fossil fuel company’s stock price or market cap will compel business to adopt more environmentally conscious practices. 

Photo Curtesy of Getty Images
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