This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Infamous Anniversary-- And What You Can Do

(This is from Oceana, a wonderful organization dedicated to oceans and the creatures that depend upon their health.)

As I write this on the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, more than 70 million acres of the U.S. Arctic Ocean are slated to again be offered for sale to oil companies, which would threaten local cultures and put already stressed ecosystems in further danger. Oceana recently celebrated the decision to prevent commercial fishing from entering the Arctic. Please help us score another win for the Arctic by telling the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, that offshore drilling in the region is not the answer to our energy woes and that we need a science-based precautionary approach to protect the Arctic Ocean.

In the minutes after midnight on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez poured 10.8 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound, turning pristine spruce-lined waters into a sticky death trap for countless animals, including a quarter of a million birds.

How is Oceana remembering this day?

Dr. Jeff Short, Pacific Science Director for Oceana, testified today before members of the House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Short, who has spent two decades studying the impacts of oil on marine environments, urged federal action to protect the oceans from offshore drilling.

Oil leases have already been sold in the Arctic's Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and if we do not change course, the peoples and animals of the Arctic may soon be forced to share their home with oil platforms and huge tankers.

The choices to make these areas available were made without adequate science or public process, but we now have a chance to make our voices heard.

Thousands of Arctic peoples rely on Arctic Ocean ecosystems as central to local economies, nutrition and a subsistence way of life that has existed for millennia. The Arctic Ocean is also home to some of the world's iconic animals species, including polar bears, walruses, and whales. Meanwhile, the region is at the forefront of climate change - sea ice is rapidly melting, putting ecosystems under great stress.

The rush to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean is an incredibly risky proposition. As we learned from Exxon Valdez, oil has dire long-term impacts on marine ecosystems. It is nearly impossible to effectively clean up oil in the oceans, particularly in icy Arctic waters, and the icebreakers, pipelines, and other infrastructure necessary for oil development would further stress our oceans.

Also, offshore oil drilling would have little if any impact on gas prices. Figures from the U.S. Energy Information Agency show that even at peak production, increased drilling offshore would produce less than one percent of the current energy demand in the U.S.

Please join us in calling for the immediate halt of all oil and gas activities in the Arctic until a science-based, precautionary approach is put in place.

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