>> Thursday, June 17, 2010
Right now, there's a good bit of vitriole out there over the ecological catastrophe currently in work due to oil company negligence and lax regulation. But, I read a story today that boiled my blood, not because it means the spill in the Gulf is any less tragic and horrific, but because this is going on elsewhere in the world and we're either don't know or don't care.
According to this article in the New York Times, oil machinery, pipelines and wells (run largely by Shell) in Nigeria have been the cause of as much as 546 million barrels of oils spilled over the past fifty years in the delta region of Nigeria, which once served as the source of food for most of the country. That's ~50 Exxon Valdez spills, effectively one a year for the last five decades.
Water is contaminated. Fish and shellfish, crops and wildlife which supplied much of the country, are gone, far far out to sea or potentially contaminated. Corroded pipes, defunct wells, sabotage, oil thieves, vandals, all have contributed and it appears that everyone's pointing fingers at everyone else as responsible. But the oil, which supplies 80% of Nigeria's revenue, is not helping the natives that live with the fallout. They have some of the lowest life expectancies in the nation.
Now, I admit I have a pet peeve, the one where people get all caught up about a "local" (i.e. US) tragedy but shrug off horrors that happen to other people. I got hot under the collar when Hurricane Mitch was hardly noted in passing, even though it was the deadliest Atlantic hurricane in nearly a hundred years (and far deadlier than Hurricane Katrina, which doesn't even make the top 25). And it torques me that people who talk about the worst storms ever don't even note some of the horrific deadly typhoons that have devastated the Far East and Asia. The Bhola Cyclone that hit in 1970 killed between 300,000 and 500,000 people.
So, I don't think it's less tragic that Americans are facing ruin and the ecosystem is being ruined in the gulf than it is that people with little/nothing have less because of oil spills largely ignored in Nigeria. But I don't think it's more either. Clearly, holding our oil companies responsible for the damage they cause is long overdue, and not just off our own coast.
This shouldn't just outrage me.