On this day in 1989, the Exxon Valdez supertanker ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. It spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sound. Remoteness, the scale of the spill, difficult conditions, and a lack of preparation all conspired to help the spill stretch across 11,000 square miles. Hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and an untold amount of fish and marine mammals were lost. Communities in the region were economically and socially devastated.
The environment and many of those communities have yet to recover.
Many agree that the payments and penalties Exxon has offered since the spill have been far from sufficient. Even so, one thing the Exxon Valdez spill revealed is that cleanup and recovery from an oil spill are an oxymoron. Only a small fraction of the oil was “recovered,” and although some local fishing fleets have once again returned to the water, the legacy of devastation, depression, and economic ruin isn’t going anywhere.
There is no cleaning up of oil spills. There is no coming back from them. Isn’t that reason enough to keep places that have yet to be ruined, places so remote that they will be that much harder to clean, safe from the dirty, spilly, killing wrath of oil extraction?
In this Greenpeace video, that question is asked to haunting effect. How many Exxon Valdez spills will there be? How many BP Deepwater Horizon disasters? And now, as of last weekend, another spill is doing its dark work on the ecology and communities of Galveston Bay.
When will we learn?