Learning from Deepwater Horizon: The Need to Prioritize Safety and Sustainable Energy

Learning from Deepwater Horizon: The Need to Prioritize Safety and Sustainable Energy

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The Deepwater Horizon disaster that unfolded in April 2010 is a haunting reminder of the far-reaching and irreparable consequences an ecosystem disaster can have on our world. Despite the considerable efforts of BP’s oil PR team, no amount of public relations wizardry could negate the fact that something profoundly terrible had occurred. The catastrophic event affected humans and the entire ecosystem, including animals, plants, and the environment.

This tragedy begs an essential and timely question: Is it necessary to put people’s lives in peril to extract oil? The risks associated with oil drilling extend far beyond the immediate dangers to those operating the oil rig. It encompasses the well-being of the surrounding ecosystem, comprising water bodies, land, air, animals, plants, and residents. Moreover, it’s crucial to acknowledge that geographic borders do not confine the impacts of such drilling. Pollution generated during the process transcends national boundaries, ultimately endangering lives globally. So, with these grim realities in mind, why do we continue to engage in oil drilling, and why are we persistently building new oil rigs?

The Precautionary Principle, a proactive approach prioritizing safety and environmental well-being, must replace the reactive Polluters Pay Principle. There is no denying that we have viable alternatives for power generation, and it’s high time we focus on harnessing cleaner energy sources. The Deepwater Horizon incident is a stark reminder of the immense dangers associated with oil rig operations, mainly when dealing with colossal structures like the Deepwater Horizon, which were essentially ticking time bombs.

The Ongoing Dangers of Oil Drilling

Oil drilling operations have long been associated with severe risks and consequences, and Deepwater Horizon was a tragic manifestation of these dangers. To better understand the reasons why we should transition away from this risky endeavour, let’s examine these issues in more detail:

1. Human Lives in Peril:

The individuals who operate oil rigs find themselves in extraordinarily precarious situations. Minor mistakes can result in catastrophic accidents, and the Deepwater Horizon disaster is a testament to the daily severe dangers that oil rig workers face. This scenario begs whether it is ethical to place human lives at such risk to meet our unrelenting global demand for oil.

2. Environmental Devastation:

The surrounding ecosystem, which includes marine life, coastal ecosystems, and pristine habitats, is also at significant risk. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill discharged millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, causing unimaginable harm to these ecosystems. It is essential to recognize that the repercussions of such environmental catastrophes extend far beyond the immediate area of the incident. Fragile ecosystems and habitats, vital to our planet’s biodiversity, are jeopardized, leading to severe consequences for life on Earth.

3. Global Pollution:

One of the gravest concerns is the pollution generated during oil drilling operations, which doesn’t respect national borders. Pollution, in the form of greenhouse gases, chemicals, and other contaminants, disperses across oceans, continents, and the atmosphere. As a result, air quality, climate, and human health are negatively impacted globally. The notion that the environmental impacts of oil drilling remain confined to a specific region is an illusion; the consequences are widespread.

Learning from Deepwater Horizon: The Need to Prioritize Safety and Sustainable Energy
Picture from Ten years after Deepwater disaster, scientists and activists worry no lessons have been learned https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/ten-years-after-deepwater-disaster-scientists-activists-worry-no-lessons-n1187741
Learning from Deepwater Horizon: The Need to Prioritize Safety and Sustainable Energy
Picture from Seabird losses from Deepwater Horizon oil spill estimated at hundreds of thousands https://www.science.org/content/article/seabird-losses-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill-estimated-hundreds-thousands

The Case for the Precautionary Principle

Choosing between the Precautionary Principle and the Polluters Pay Principle is pivotal in addressing these pressing concerns. While the Polluters Pay Principle is a step in the right direction, placing the financial burden of environmental disasters on the entities responsible for pollution, it does not prevent these disasters from happening. It is essentially a “too little, too late” approach that often fails to rectify the significant environmental damage that has already occurred fully.

In contrast, the Precautionary Principle is a proactive strategy emphasizing taking precautionary measures to avert environmental and human health harm. It advocates against engaging in activities with significant environmental risks unless one can demonstrate that these activities are safe. This puts the responsibility on those proposing the action to prove its safety rather than on others to prove harm after the fact.

Embracing Cleaner Energy Alternatives

A compelling reason to adopt the Precautionary Principle is the existence of safer alternatives for power generation. We have made substantial progress in harnessing cleaner energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. These sources are sustainable, do not pose the same risks as oil drilling, and can adequately meet our energy needs without endangering lives and the environment.

The Power of Awareness and Advocacy

To drive this crucial shift, we must raise awareness and advocate for changes in our energy policies. “Deepwater Horizon” serves as a potent reminder of the potential consequences of reckless drilling practices. People have a voice, and our voices must be heard. We must push for the widespread implementation of the Precautionary Principle in all decisions related to resource extraction.

Environmental Degradation is not the Path to Prosperity.

It is essential to debunk the myth that environmental Degradation is an inevitable trade-off for economic prosperity. In reality, this trade-off is illusory. Environmental Degradation leads to a cascade of adverse effects, including degraded land that yields contaminated food. Contaminated food, in turn, results in poor health, leading to a vicious cycle of poorer economies. The wealth generated is often diverted to healthcare costs and managing an ailing population instead of investing in genuine economic growth.

A Call for Transformation

The movie “Deepwater Horizon” is more than just a cinematic portrayal of a tragic event; it is a stark reminder of the profound environmental and human consequences of oil drilling disasters. It compels us to ask difficult questions about the necessity of continuing to put people’s lives in danger and risking the stability of our ecosystem.

We must advocate for the Precautionary Principle to guide our decision-making in resource extraction and embrace cleaner and safer alternatives to meet our energy needs. By doing so, we can shape a future unburdened by the shadow of environmental Degradation and instead powered by sustainable, clean, and abundant energy sources. We are responsible for ensuring that the lessons of “Deepwater Horizon” are not forgotten and that we collectively take a step towards a more sustainable and prosperous future.

References

Ten years after Deepwater disaster, scientists and activists worry no lessons have been learned Retrieved October 19, 2023 from https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/ten-years-after-deepwater-disaster-scientists-activists-worry-no-lessons-n1187741

Seabird losses from Deepwater Horizon oil spill estimated at hundreds of thousands Retrieved October 19, 2023 from https://www.science.org/content/article/seabird-losses-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill-estimated-hundreds-thousands

Precautionary principle Retrieved October 19, 2023 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

About Post Author

Obie Agusiegbe

A Certified Sustainability and Environmental Management Expert with over 20 years’ experience in the sustainability sector. She works with organizations interested in improving their sustainability performance by assisting them identify and implement ways to include environmental and social aspects into their existing offerings. Her solutions are innovative and build bridges globally International Development | Africa | Clean Technologies | Climate Resilience | Humanitarian | Fairness
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