Oil spill is a threat to a sustainable future
Tuesday's oil spill along the Spanish coastline, which was covered in the business section of The Observer, deserves much more attention than it was given.
I don't know about you, but "business" is not what comes to mind when I hear of an environmental catastrophe. Although the economic damage to the Spanish people will be immense, there is much more at stake than the fishing industry.
After a disaster such as this, the dynamics of the ecosystem will change dramatically. The spill caused immediate ecological damage and the long term effects, such as alterations to species composition and interaction, may exist for decades to come.
In 1989 an Exxon Valdez tanker dumped nearly 11 million gallons of oil off the coast of Alaska. As of this year, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council reports that while much progress has been made, the harbor seal, 6 species of waterfowl and the Pacific herring have made no recovery since the spill. Sea otters, clams, intertidal communities and sediments have shown improvements but are still being affected by the remnants of the disaster.
Tuesday's spill dumped 20 million gallons of heavy crude fuel into the ocean, almost twice as much as Exxon Valdez. It is still early to measure the ecological impact, but scientists suspect it to be much worse than the 1989 spill. Neither the economic effects of this catastrophe nor the damage that we humans are inflicting on our planet can be ignored. It is time to start looking beyond our wallets and toward a sustainable future.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, November 25, 2002