The past nine months have seen an awful lot of oil getting away. And for the most part, we are still reeling and trying to figure out what happened with all these oil leaks, especially the BP oil spill.
Of course there was the horrific BP oil spill which started at Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig on 20th April 2010, and was not stopped until 15th July. All of BP’s systems could not get this oil spill under control any quicker. And so almost five MILLION barrels of oil flowed into the sea, devastating massive swathes of the environment. One graphic depicted the size of the devastated area as equivalent to Vancouver to Kelowna.
More recently, on 6th January 2011, a massive explosion on the Horizon oil sands in Northern Alberta injured four employees, and engulfed a 146 metre (480 foot) tall structure in flames. A Fort McKay resident complained: “I’m looking at a huge wall of black smoke that’s filling the sky. We don’t know what is being released right now into the air.” I’m guessing it’s whatever foul pollutant is released when we burn oil – something like what comes out of cars, only more of it.
And now we learn that Chevron’s North Burnaby refinery has been quietly leaching almost 11,000 litres of oily material into the ground since last spring. Their company spokesman insists that most of that has been recovered. (Of course, he wouldn’t have any motivation to exaggerate that claim, would he!) And the company is not even certain where the effluent is coming from. Which does not bode well for them being able to stop it from continuing to leach! Of course, Chevron has systems in place to prevent this kind of environmental contamination. And just as with BP, the systems failed.
Residents are incensed. One says: “It doesn’t matter how much Chevron says is there. It’s too much because it’s beyond the contaminated sites regulation. They are trying to downplay it, but it’s over the provincial limit.”
I can understand her distress. We very nearly bought a house close to the refinery, and now I am very relieved we didn’t. However, it is interesting to me that people get so upset about oil leaking into the ground, and gobs of oily material showing up on empty beaches – but at the same time blithely pollute the very air we breathe by driving around in pollution-spewing cars.
You’d think people would care more about the air that they have to breathe than a beach they cannot even see.
And you’d think that if the Province was going to regulate the amount of contamination oil refineries can generate, it would also regulate the amount of pollution cars can spew out. I can see it now on Global Morning News:
“If you’re about to get in your car and leave for work – don’t! The BC government has noted that air pollution exceeds regulated limits. All driving is suspended until further notice. Residents are invited to help themselves to the public service bicycles that will be provided in all neighborhoods.”
Of course, that won’t happen until people are actually keeling over and asphyxiating on the street. Sigh. Although come to think of it, there are already many cities which issue advisories to vulnerable citizens to stay home on days when the air quality is excessively poor. Rather than order the people who are causing the problem (motorists) to stay home, they punish the victims! So I guess it is more likely that when things get that bad, Global will simply caution residents to wear gas masks to get to their cars – and keep those windows rolled up tight!
I suspect our happy indifference to air pollution stems from the fact that the pollution in our air is invisible. Right now I can look out my window and see a beautiful blue sky, with bright sunshine dappling the green grass and evergreens. You’d swear we were still in the Garden of Eden, and that humans had never done a thing to pollute the planet or destroy the environment. Unfortunately, that is really not the case. If I listen carefully I can hear the omnipresent growl of cars, relentlessly destroying this wonderful planet we have been given.
IMO it is the ultimate paradox of humanity that our amazing intelligence, which set us apart from the other animals and allowed us to completely dominate the earth, now threatens to destroy the earth as a habitat for all species – including ourselves. Most people look out on a beautiful day like today and cannot even imagine that we could really destroy it all; but I fear we are doing precisely that, just as relentlessly as the oil bubbled out of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in the apparently unstoppable BP oil spill.