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Bret Hanna
Bret Hanna
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Earth Day And Oil Rigs

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Today is the 40th annual Earth Day and it is being heralded around the world with events and topical discussions. Unfortunately, the 40th anniversary comes just one day after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The tragedy is many fold – it appears that 11 lives have been lost and the environmental dangers continue to loom. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, the risks are significant:

Up to 7,400 barrels of crude oil a day could be spewing into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico after Tuesday night’s explosion aboard the semi-submersible Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig caused it to capsize and sink Thursday morning.

After listing for most of Wednesday, the $600 million platform 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana sank in 5,000 feet of water at about 10 a.m. Thursday. Seventeen people were injured, and 11 are still missing from the explosion. The rest of the crew of 126 filed into lifeboats or jumped nearly 100 feet from the platform before being pulled from the water by Coast Guard rescue crews.

As the intense fire burned the spewing oil off on Wednesday, early indications were that the rig fire didn’t present significant danger to the coastal ecosystem. But with the rig now sunk and the fire out, concerns are now growing that the situation could mirror a deep-water spill caused by a fire on the West Atlas rig off Australia last year, which environmentalists likened to a "disaster movie."

"This is already a serious accident, and if this crude is allowed to flow uncontrolled out of the well for days or weeks, the environmental impact could be really substantial," says Robert Bryce, an energy expert at the Manhattan Institute and author of "Power Hungry: The myths of ‘green’ energy and the real fuels of the future." "They now have to figure out how to stop the blowout from the well. There are a tremendous number of unknowns now."

Coast Guard officials estimated that up to 13,000 gallons of crude an hour was coming out of the exploratory hole 41 miles offshore of Plaquemines Parish, La. An early suggestion that damage would be minimal because the fire was consuming most of the fuel "does have the potential to change," BP official David Rainey told the New York Times.

Oil exploration, recovery and consumption are a fact of life the world around for the foreseeable future. However, that does not mean that we should not be doing everything we can to ensure safe and environmentally conscious exploration and recovery, to ensure conservative use of natural resources, and to look for environmentally friendly alternative energy sources.

The official Earth Day Campaign 2010 site offers some ideas:

Forty years after the first Earth Day, the world is in greater peril than ever. While climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, it also presents the greatest opportunity – an unprecedented opportunity to build a healthy, prosperous, clean energy economy now and for the future.

Earth Day 2010 can be a turning point to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs. Earth Day Network is galvanizing millions who make personal commitments to sustainability. Earth Day 2010 is a pivotal opportunity for individuals, corporations and governments to join together and create a global green economy. Join the more than one billion people in 190 countries that are taking action for Earth Day.

The site identifies the core issues as:


Climate Change

Conservation & Biodiversity



Food & Agriculture

Green Economy

Green Schools

Recycling & Waste Reduction

Sustainable Development


And there are ways to take action:

Campaigns provide the tools and structure for individuals and organizations to organize around environmental issues.

Find your issue, choose a campaign and act now.

Why are these issues so important? Pulitzer Prize winning biologist E.O. Wilson summed it up succinctly today on NPR‘s The Diane Rehm Show. To paraphrase, humans are a species like all other species that inhabit the earth. The earth is home to all species and all species are interdependent. If we create, allow or fail to control developing imbalances that impact one or more species, we risk the loss of the home to us all.

There you have it. We have no choice and the clock is ticking. We all must act responsibly in any way we can. Our lives depend on it.