Why Don’t We Care About Thousands of Other Oil Spills?

About 300 oils spills a year occur in the Niger Delta. In fact, a large one from an ExxonMobil pipe occurred on May 10th, 2010. Have you heard of it?

You probably haven’t heard of it because there is practically no US or European coverage of it. Just as there is practically no coverage of the hundreds of other oil spills there every year. The question is, why?

Image Credit: Jenn Farr Oil from an oil spill in the Niger Delta (8 months after the spill)

Oil from an oil spill in the Niger Delta (8 months after the spill)

“If this (the BP spill) were in the Niger Delta, no one would be batting an eyelid,” said Holly Pattenden, African oil analyst at consultancy Business Monitor International. “They have these kinds of oil spills in Nigeria all the time.”

I would guess that we don’t pay attention to these oil spills (or the media doesn’t) because: 1) if they happen so frequently, what is the “news”? — it would be essentially the same story everyday for years upon years; 2) they are far away and, perhaps, less dramatic than wars or extreme natural disasters that (sometimes) attract more interantional attention; 3) they are in a place of very little emotional concern to most people in the US or Europe.

These oil spills still cause massive environmental, economic and emotional damage, though. And, if given proper light, bring to the forefront the horrendous results of our dependence on oil (especially for transportation purposes).

“We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots,” Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe, said of an oil spill from a few years ago. “This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months.”

“Oil spills are a regular occurrence in Nigeria, about 300 a year, it is estimated over the past 50 years about 1.5 million tons have been dumped in the Delta, equivalent to the Gulf War oil spill (the largest spill on record) or 50+ Exxon Valdez.” MetaFilter reports.

Without a major change in how our society is run, meaning a major reduction in our addiction to oil, things will never change, though. In fact, the prediction is that things will get worse. “Major spills are likely to increase in the coming years as the industry strives to extract oil from increasingly remote and difficult terrains. Future supplies will be offshore, deeper and harder to work. When things go wrong, it will be harder to respond,” an industry insider has said.

Do your part: jump on a bike, public transit or even a skateboard next time you need to go somewhere.

  • http://solarchargeddriving.com Christof

    Excellent post. I bike as much as I can to work and my wife uses public transportation 90-percent of the time.

    For the other times when we need a car (hard to escape this need in the U.S., especially with kids who need to be carted around), we’ll be using our brand new home solar system to charge the batteries of a future electric car (hope to get this within the next two years).

    Meanwhile, we’ll continue to try and minimize our driving as much as possible — and Tweet posts such as this one to try and inspire the rest of the world to see the environmental damage wrought by our society’s voracious oil-consuming ways …

  • http://www.eco-friendlylivingblog.com Sarah

    I was just thinking about this the other day. I’m glad you wrote a post on it.

    I’m becoming more and more bewildered about the world we live in now. It’s seems like a sci-fi story gone wrong–especially the daily news about the oil spill. The fact that it’s happening in other places too sickens me.

  • Zach

    I completely agree, Sarah. It is hard to face the news sometimes, and there is still so much the news won’t even cover.

  • Stacy J

    This is really sad. We need to do more than ride bikes as there are so many more ways our nation is dependent on oil. We need to hold our government and regulatory commissions and corporations accountable – not an easy task, it’s easy to get lost in the corrupt mess we live in. Sorry to be downer here!