Co-authored by Sylvia Earle
Six years ago we rushed to the Gulf of Mexico after Deepwater Horizon exploded and BP’s well gushed oil for 87 panicked-filled days of oiled beaches, oiled birds, oiled turtles, dead dolphins, and shattered human lives.
But memories are short, so we’re drilling for more in harder, riskier places. Last month, the Obama administration made the decision to lease parts of the Arctic for potential offshore drilling. We are gratified that the Administration has taken Atlantic Seaboard leases off the table; we wish they’d nixed arctic drilling too.
The Gulf and the Arctic Ocean have similarities: people depend on these places for their livelihoods, unique and iconic wildlife make these places their homes, and oil companies lobby for the right to own these places and people.
Yet here’s where they are different: the Arctic Ocean environment is harsh and unforgiving – it is cold, dark and icy for most of the year. Unlike the Gulf, there is little infrastructure in place to help if there was a spill — the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away. Despite having an astonishing array of nearby infrastructure in the Gulf, we watched BP oil gush for months while they bumbled helplessly with ineffective ad-hoc efforts at plugging the hole.