Imagine you’re sitting at a table, playing a game of Russian roulette. Across from you is a five-chambered revolver, loaded with a single steel bullet. If you live, you win a stack of cash. Losing means your life. Would you play?
Big oil companies, like Shell and Exxon, want to play a similar game, with the same chance of losing everything. They’re not wagering their lives, though—they’re betting on the safety of our precious and finite environment. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (formerly the Minerals Management Service) estimates a one-in-five chance of a major spill occurring over the lifetime of activity in just one block of leases in the Arctic Ocean near Alaska. Risky, right? It’s common sense; why risk ruining a beautiful and crucial habitat for something as trivial as the three years’ worth of oil it would provide?
The effects of such a spill could be grave—possibly even worse than the BP Gulf Coast spill. Gushing oil would tarnish the lives of the people and animals who call the Arctic their home. If the well was not sealed fast enough (and with winter sea ice, it could take as much as six months for clean up crews to arrive on the scene), the oil could become trapped underneath winter ice, and flow in the waters below for up to two years.
Even worse, the big oil companies have yet to compose a rational plan for dealing with spilled oil. Part of Shell’s current response would be to burn leaking oil—seriously? A wise woodshop teacher once told me to measure twice and cut once. Shell is going in with no real plan– let’s hope they’re better at drilling than I am at cutting two-by-fours.
What’s most upsetting to me is the fact that oil companies like Shell are making dangerous decisions that will affect not only our generation, but those of the future. Children are so excited about animals like polar bears and foxes, and are so eager to learn about them.
I met a young boy while canvassing for Greenpeace who was so enthusiastic about tigers that he dragged his mother and sister over to talk to me.Telling him that human greed is endangering these creatures broke my heart. He smiled at me and tugged on his mother’s shirt. “We help them?” he asked her with wide eyes, before looking at me and asserting “We help them!” By the time that boy is an adult, we need to make sure there will still be tigers and polar bears for him to help.
The decision on drilling in the Arctic is simple: The risk factor is high, and the consequences are devastating. Is the US willing to risk the safety of the Arctic for three years’ worth of oil? Do you think that burning oil is a viable disaster plan?
Would you play Russian roulette with a five chambered revolver?