Oiled pelican, © Krista Schlyer/Defenders

Five Years Later: Failing to Learn from an Environmental Tragedy

Five years ago today, a catastrophic explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig initiated one of the worst environmental disasters of our time. The initial tragedy of the deadly explosion, which took the lives of eleven rig workers, was only the beginning of an 87-day nightmare as an estimated 200 million gallons of oil gushed from the well into the Gulf of Mexico. The slick of oil on the water’s surface could be seen from space.

The Gulf oil disaster was devastating in every sense of the word. Devastating to the families of the people who lost their lives. Devastating to fishermen and local businesses that depend on a thriving Gulf to make their living. And devastating to the countless sea turtles, pelicans, fish and other wildlife that died, were injured or lost their habitat as a result of the spill. Five years later, the Gulf is still recovering from the effects of this disaster.

The BP oil spill has had serious consequences for fish reproduction, as research has shown that larval fish exposed to crude oil fail to develop properly. It damaged thousands of miles of coastline that hundreds of bird species depend on for nesting and migratory stopover habitat. A recent study has shown that oil-exposed dolphins are more susceptible to infections. The BP spill’s effects were profound and long-lasting in every natural system they touched, whether on land or in the water.

With the five year anniversary here, many are reflecting on this tragedy, so you’d think that lawmakers would learn from history, and be eager to move us to an energy future that reduces the likelihood of repeating the Gulf tragedy. Instead, they’ve doubled down on pushing their dirty energy agenda. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s budget resolution amendment would make parts of National Wildlife Refuge lands available to states for oil drilling. This could have disastrous consequences for wildlife refuges across the United States. It might even have implications for the coastal plain of the iconic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has been under attack from pro-drilling legislators like Murkowski for decades.

We’ve seen this movie before, and we know it doesn’t have a happy ending. Remember the Exxon Valdez shipwreck in 1989 (at least 11 million gallons)? Or the Santa Barbara off-coast oil blowout in 1969 (nearly four million gallons)? Whether the cause is human error, equipment failure, or a willingness to cut corners to save money, the end result is that where there are drills, there are spills, and miles of Gulf waters and coastal habitat may never be the same. And as we’ve learned from Shell’s 2012 debacle in the Chukchi Sea, when the state-of-the-art Kulluk drilling barge was set adrift, advanced technology is no guarantee of protection. And yet our leaders in the Senate want to give states the authority to introduce the risks of energy development onto parcels of land specifically designated as wildlife habitat.

As we look back on the BP oil spill disaster, let’s also look to the future. We need to ensure the safety of our nation’s vulnerable wildlife habitat. We need to invest further in alternative, cleaner energy that doesn’t contribute to climate change or pose such a great threat to the environment. And we need to keep harmful energy extraction out of our national wildlife refuges.

Speak Out!

Take a minute today and share the image below on social media to remind the world that we can’t afford another disaster like Deepwater Horizon.

4 Responses to “Five Years Later: Failing to Learn from an Environmental Tragedy”

  1. Robert Boehm

    I love the ocean and I love animals in the ocean but if you gonna drill oil in the ocean then don’t do it ok it not worth it cause it will kill the beautiful blue ocean and beautiful animals in the ocean! I don’t want to see that again cause it kill me to see the oil spill to kill the ocean and the animals in the ocean!! Please, please!! Don’t drill oil in the ocean!! Think about the climate change, the beautiful blue ocean and animals in the ocean!! Keep safe and don’t drill the oil!!! Thank you! God Bless!!

  2. Lisa

    I live down the street from the Pacific! I don’t want to ever see such a disaster. My heart breaks when I see pictures of birds and other sea life covered in oil. Greed has pushed humans to go too far. Our earth and oceans need protection. One of the most beautiful things we have is the Ocean. It’s what makes our planet distinct in the Solar System. A lovely blue marble revolving around the sun!

  3. Richard Savage

    Could we please have a little scientific rationality here? The article above says: “We need to invest further in alternative, cleaner energy that doesn’t contribute to climate change or pose such a great threat to the environment.” The “climate change” argument is nonsense; there has been NO GLOBAL WARMING for more than 18 years (as recorded by well-calibrated meteorological satellites, analyzed by two independent contractors for NASA). Those horrible industrial-scale “wind farms” are chopping millions of birds and bats to shreds; industrial scale solar farms (such as Ivanpah, thankfully now defunct) fry them in the air.
    I’m disgusted by Defenders’ irrational, emotional appeal to preventing “climate change” as an argument on behalf of wildlife preservation. Lying is dishonest; raising money by doing so will backfire when the lack of global warming becomes even more obvious – i.e., when a lot of Americans are sitting in the cold and dark on behalf of saving the polar bears.

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