What’s Going On Here?

A month ago, a cargo ship carrying toxic chemicals caught fire and sank off Sri Lanka, leaving in its wake an environmental disaster that the island will likely have to live with for decades. Fast forward to last week when the ocean appeared to be on fire due to a bursting pipeline near the Gulf of Mexico, it become (once again) shockingly obvious that environmental exploitation for fossil fuels has reached a point of unbelievable destruction. 

What Does This Mean?

The bright orange flames jumping out of the water resembled molten lava and the “eye of fire“ quickly circulated on social media, but all the sadly accurate memes aside, although the extent of environmental damage caused by the recent fire is still unknown, it’s no secret that spills in the ocean are extremely damaging to marine life and difficult to clean up. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Mexican state-owned petroleum company Pemex is being associated with a large-scale ecological disaster. In fact the company was highlighted as the most polluting company in Latin America.

So we are left wondering how many disasters do we have to witness, do wildlife and nature have to endure before we get serious about removing the use of fossil fuels?

The coastal stretch near the site of the shipwreck, for instance, is home to some of the country’s most pristine beaches but only weeks after the X-Press Pearl sank saw oil, debris and plastic pellet pollution. As if that is not bad enough, recent news have confirmed that the remains of 176 turtles, 20 dolphins and four whales have washed ashore since. Unfortunately, marine mammals tend to sink to the seabed after dying, so the actual number of deaths is likely much higher.

While some might argue that marine turtles washing up dead are sadly quite common around the peak of the monsoon period, due to rough seas causing fatal injuries, this time around most of them were found on the west coast, which was directly affected by the shipwreck. So even in the spirit of preventing evidence-free speculation, conservation experts agree that the toll this year is “abnormally high“. That’s why they have called for necropsies to determine the cause of death.

Why Should We Care? 

Five of the world’s seven marine turtle species nest along Sri Lanka’s southern and southeastern beaches. Modeling by researchers has also shown that ocean currents are likely to carry the ship’s pollutants south, right through the path of the turtles and towards their nesting sites. Coordinator of the Turtle Conservation Project of Sri Lanka, Thushan Kapurusinghe highlighted a disturbing trend which revealed that most of the dead turtles are juveniles. Immature turtles are more likely to stay close to shore, mainly to feed. Consequently, it’s “possible that these deaths are linked to some food contamination, probably due to pollution.“ 

And this just outlines the possible consequences of one disaster, looking back at the recent Pemex accident makes us wonder how we can make the polluters more accountable for the damage they are causing? Pemex is just one of the 20 companies which are collectively responsible for the emission of 35% of the greenhouse gases into the environment – that’s 480 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane. When it comes to oil spills and pipeline accidents, the responsible parties are typically fined for these accidents but obtaining data of the impact of a spill and assessing the damage to natural resources is difficult. Therefore it’s important to proactively reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Don’t Be a Fossil Fool

Be Curious!

  • Support organisations like the Climate Accountability Institute to leverage carbon producers into using their skills, capital, and resources to aid rather than oppose the transition to a zero-carbon energy future.
  • #MakePollutersPay, sign this petition to support an EU legislation to discourage the consumption of fossil fuels and encourage the use of renewable sources.
  • Green your home by turning off your LED lights and electrical devices when you don’t need or use them to conserve energy.
  • Switch to eco-friendly printing and avoid using petroleum-based printer ink.
  • Did you know that nylon is petroleum-based too? It’s often found in clothes, luggage and umbrellas so buy second-hand whenever possible and opt for more economically and environmentally friendly choices.
  • It really comes down to the little things, such as Aspirin pills which are also made with oil products so stay hydrated to prevent that headache.
  • Don’t forget to raise awareness and spread the word about reducing fossil fuels when talking to friends and family, colleagues and your neighbours.