By Nisha Umesh:
On April 20th, 2010, the most disastrous oil spill in the history of the United States occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. Following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and death of 11 workers, around 3.19 million barrels of oil had already spread through the gulf in almost three months.
This environmental disaster had irreversible long-term effects upon wildlife, both marine and land, as well as humans. Some of these effects include the fish and wildlife marine population decreasing drastically as a result of oil not only covering the body of the animals, but ended up being ingested by them. Seagulls’ feathers were saturated in oil, preventing them from flying; turtles were stranded in the spill zone and covered in oil; dolphins, among other marine life fell very sick, etc.
Additionally, fisheries in the area of the oil spill were adversely affected, losing business and revenue from a loss of seafood. The tourism in the area, primarily in Louisiana, was negatively impacted. The economic prosperity and revenue gained from the local businesses around the once crystal clear waters of the Gulf suffered a huge loss.
And yet, Royal Dutch Shell company has received approval to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic, specifically the Chukchi Sea in Alaska. Seven billion dollars have been invested into this expedition, as it is believed that an estimated 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves are located in the Arctic.
While there is a need for oil and energy in the future, as our current reserves begin to run low, environmentalists strongly advise against proceeding with this risky venture. They foresee negative consequences, similar to those following the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil will have lasting effects upon wildlife, still suffering from prior invasion and destruction of their habitats. The land and water surrounding the drilling will also be contaminated, posing a threat to these ecological systems.
However, apart from the environmental consequences of drilling in the Arctic, there are dire repercussions which can directly affect the people living in the region. We must address how drilling into these regions for oil can displace indigenous people and destroy their homes.
Many indigenous people are currently protesting Shell’s drilling in the Arctic, as their livelihood and commerce is built around the surrounding land and ocean. Drilling into these oil reserves procure negative environmental effects upon the land, which displace these native people from their homes. The Swinomish Native American Tribe gathered in canoes near Shell’s drilling rig in Elliott Bay in Seattle and protested by holding up signs and banners denouncing their expedition.
I strongly believe that Shell should not be entering the Arctic to drill for oil, as our environment is at a tremendously high risk for degradation. The repercussions will be severe, harming both the environment and wildlife if there is another spill. While these devastating effects exist, we must remember that humans are also directly affected by this drilling. We should confront corporations such as Shell, who freely trespass into, and destroy regions that do not belong to them. They must answer to the people who are being displaced by their enterprise and realize that they are doing more harm than good. It is not smart to continue putting both, environment and human lives at stake for the sake of striking oil and ultimately, striking rich.