Sunday, June 6, 2010

The sounds of the Earth crying

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

These shocking and distressing photos are from a series of photos in the Boston Globe that show birds affected by oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

The New York Times also has a remarkable photo gallery of images of the unfolding catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

When I see these images I am reminded of the comments of the Vietnamese Buddhist peace activist, poet and philosopher Thich Nhat Nanh who was asked "what do we most need to do to save the world?". His reply "What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying".

All these photos are absolutely heartbreaking. A shocking reminder of the evils of the "corporate economy" and the fossil fuel industry. But these disasters are neither accidents nor uncommon. They are a natural consequence of the way the industry operates.

Nor should we forget that other oil companies cause similar ecological catastrophes in other parts of the world, away from the prying eyes of the Western media. In Nigeria's oil rich Niger Delta the oil company Shell has leaked an estimated 9 million to 13 million barrels (or 1.5 million tons) into the ecosystem over the past 5 decades. This is equivalent to an Exxon Valdez spill in the Niger Delta each year. Daily blowouts devastate livelihoods, destroy environments and contaminate drinking water.

I am currently reading the book Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta which shows the catastrophic devastation caused by Shell and the oil industry in the Niger Delta.

Then is of course there is Chevron, the darling of the Western Australian government for its Gorgon Project, who faces a $27 billion dollar liability for environmental damage caused by Texaco a company Chevron acquired in 2001. Texaco has admitted to dumping and spilling billions of gallons of toxic waster and oil in eastern Ecuador Amazon rainforest between 1964 and 1990.

And here in Western Australia we await the release of the Report into the Inquiry into the 2009 Montara West Atlas Oil Spill off the Kimberley Coast that caused such environmental devastation in the Timor Sea and destroyed ecosystems, marine life and the livelihoods of Indonesian fisherman. We also had the explosion on Varanus Island which caused such economic and environmental damage. Even the pro mining and resources industry newspaper The West Australian carried a report in its weekend edition about the likelihood of massive oil spill off the West Australian coast. After all the West Australian coast is littered with offshore oil , petroleum and gas drilling facilities.

I was talking to someone on Friday who works in the resources industry about the spill in the Gulf of Mexico . He said " We have rigs up and down our coastline. What if that happened here" A very good question!!

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