Our Oceans Are Dying--And Obama Wants to Let Shell Drill for More Oil in Arctic Waters
Continued from previous page
Similarly, the rapid melting of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is already proving catastrophic for a host of species, including narwhals, polar bears, walruses, seals, and sea birds. And you have undoubtedly heard about the massive expanses of garbage, especially plastic, now clotting our oceans. Chris Jordan’s powerful photographs of dead albatrosses at Midway Atoll, their bellies full of plastic, catch what this can mean for marine life. And then there’s the increasing industrial overfishing of all waters, which is threatening to decimate fish populations globally.
And keep in mind, that’s only so far. Drilling for what Michael Klare calls“tough oil” or “extreme energy” in a range of perilous locations only ensures the further degradation of the oceans. In addition to the possible opening up of the Arctic Ocean, there has been an expansion of deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore drilling in " Iceberg Alley" near Newfoundland, deep-offshore drilling in the Brazillian “pre-salt” fields of the Atlantic Ocean, and an increase in offshore drilling in West Africa and Asia.
As Klare writes in his new book, The Race for What’s Left, “Drilling for oil and natural gas in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, and the Pacific is likely to accelerate in the years ahead… Even the ecological damage wreaked by the Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 2010 is not likely to slow this drive.” He adds that “the giant oil companies will spend an estimated $387 billion on offshore drilling operations between 2010 and 2014."
In other words, we’re in a drill, baby, drill world, even when it comes to the most perilous of watery environments, and if the major energy companies have their way, there will be no turning back until the oceans are, essentially, a garbage dump.
From Standing on the Seashore to Interconnectedness
Of his epic photographic series Seascapes, artist Hiroshi Sugimoto wrote, “Can someone today view a scene just as primitive man might have?... Although the land is forever changing its form, the sea, I thought, is immutable.”
All his seascapes are black and white with equal part sky and sea -- and in them the oceans do indeed look pristine and immutable. If you stand on the shore of any ocean today, the waters may still look that way to you. Unfortunately, we now know that those waters are increasingly anything but.
Seeing blue whales breaching and feeding is indeed a thrill and does breed an urge for protection and conservation, but what we see on the surface of the planet’s oceans is only a miniscule fraction of all their life. It is possible that we know more about outer space than we do about what actually lives in the depths of those waters. And that catches something of the conundrum facing us as they are exploited and polluted past some tipping point: How do we talk about protecting what we can’t even see?
Despite inadequacies, faults, and failures, the conservation movement to protect public lands in the U.S. has been something of a triumph, providing enjoyment for us and crucially needed habitat for many species with whom we share this Earth. Any of us, paying little or nothing, can enjoy public lands of various sizes, shapes, and varieties: national parks, national forests, officially designated wilderness areas, national wildlife refuges, state parks, city parks.
The success of land conservation, I’d suggest, was founded on one simple idea -- walking. Henry David Thoreau’s famous essay “ Walking” began as a lecture he gave at the Concord Lyceum on April 23, 1851, and was published in 1862 after his death in the Atlantic Monthly. Environmentalist John Muir made the connection between walking and land conservation explicit through his unforgettably lyrical prose about hiking the mountains of California.