Exxon Valdez-25 Years Later

Twenty five years ago today, the super tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. The result? Oil covering over 1,100 miles of Alaska`s coastline. To put this into context, that is the equivalent of covering everything from Atlanta to Boston. Nothing has been the same since.

A few quick facts:

  • Approximately 11 million gallons or 257,000 barrels or 35,000 metric tonnes of oil spilled (roughly equivalent to 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools)
  • Widely considered to be one of the biggest spills worldwide in terms of damage to the environment
  • It took more than four summers of cleanup efforts before the cleanup stopped. Not all beaches were cleaned and some beaches remain oiled today (Winter storm wave action is believed to have done more to clean the beaches than all of the human effort involved)
  • The ship went back to work under various new names

The evidence of lingering effects is clear. Rough estimates pin the deaths of 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters and 300 harbor seals directly on the oil spill. Two groups of killer whales swam through the affected parts of the Prince William Sound, and a study found that these pods experienced population losses around 41 percent in the year after the spill. The sea otters populations have only just-25 years later- recovered. Three species of cormorant, the common loon, the harbor seal, the harlequin duck, the pacific herring and the pigeon guillemot never fully recovered.

The BP oil spill in 2010 demonstrates that these oil disasters will happen again. Many of you will have probably visited a beach in your recent memory. My family, for example, visits the beaches in Maine (the photo above) nearly every year and would be devastated if they ever experienced an oil spill. The countless environmental, political and social implications that oil spills cause calls for a plan of action.

Generally oil spill cleanup will rest on a large, organized incident management group, but the first responders will most likely be the closest locals who have the most knowledge of the natural resources, and have the most at stake in relation to the spill. The Arctic, where the Valdez spill occurred, is an area that has a large amount of risk of oil spills occurring as Arctic waters are full of shipping activities. Giving the people who stand to lose the most to an oil spill event should be provided with training and equipment that could help them play a role in responding to any future environmental disaster.

The cheapest option available is to hope for the best, but with the amount of devastation an oil spill can cause, the value of prevention and preparedness is priceless.

Photo Cred: Tricia Skorupinski

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Santa’s Revenge

Santa's Revenge

Santa’s Revenge is the theory that persistent weather patterns in mid-latitude areas, such as this extraordinarily long, harsh, record breaking snowy, and freezing winter that we are experiencing in Southern Ontario, is a result of climate change warming the Arctic.

The picture above shows me on February 26th, in downtown Toronto beside Lake Ontario braving the -16 degrees Celsius weather mixed with extreme winds to make it feel like negative 1 billion (an exaggeration due to annoyance). In fact, it was so cold that the Great Lakes were more frozen than any other time in the past 35 years (92.2 percent ice coverage).

An article has now been published which gives new evidence to suggest that the link between the Arctic getting warmer, and the mid-latitudes experiencing persistent weather. This theory has been debated time and time again, but the fact is that it has extreme implications for severe weather occurrences, food security, and water use in the northern hemisphere that would have large economic impacts.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

-“It’s starting to get harder to say that something isn’t happening”

-“Events like the extended cold spell… are very consistent with the kind of pattern we expect to see related to the Arctic warming so fast.”

-“Potential to drastically affect international food supplies and prices”

-“We produce the bulk of our crops at that mid-latitude area”

Climate change is extremely worrisome. With 7 billion people in the world we cannot afford to experience food security issues as many people will be left without access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. An increase in severe weather occurrences will cause more damages, more serious social disruption and more loss of human life. The economic impacts of climate change will leave many economies around the world in disarray as they try to cope with its negative effects.

“The real question is whether we can adapt and change faster than the climate.”

Photo Cred: Flavia Craciun

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!