There is an image that haunts me! It is an oil spill in my own backyard of the Santa Barbara Channel. This is not an imagined image – it is real. It is what I observed back in 1969 when an oil Platform A off the coast released 3,000,000 gallons of oil into the ocean and contaminated 35 miles of California’s coastline. The lingering question we had was not whether this would ever happen again but when.
Sadly it has happened again; that haunting image unfolded right in front of my eyes! I have seen the devastation caused by these awful oil spills in some of the most remote and biologically pristine environments over the past 40 years. From the Exxon Valdez oil spill to the Prestige oil spill in Spain 13 years ago, to just five years ago, when my team were the first divers to document from underwater the largest oil spill in US history in the Gulf of Mexico. These tragedies will continue to impact fisherman and those whose livelihoods depend on a healthy ocean for decades to come. And now this past week on Tuesday May 19th 105,000 gallons spilled from an underground pipe along the Gaviota coast, just west of Santa Barbara. Much of this spilled oil washed into the ocean. The leak has stopped but the long-term impacts will not be known for days, weeks or even years.
Oil spills continue to happen every day around the world, in the oceans, our land, even in our backyards. Estimates range widely but we can safely say that hundreds of millions of gallons of oil are spilled into the world’s oceans each year. A significant amount of this oil comes from on land sources such as what we are experiencing right now here in Santa Barbara. We are killing our oceans and contaminating our planet. Continued exploitation of petroleum, both in the sea and on land, is certain to continue to further degrade the health of our environment and harm own health.
As caretakers of our planet, we have the responsibility and now the knowledge to move toward a cleaner future and leave behind a legacy we hope we can be proud of. The obvious solution is to move away from petroleum and toward renewable energy. We have to move from disaster to hope, from oil and oil spill to sun and wind and new technologies and new jobs.
That haunting image continues to weigh heavily on me. My dream is to change that image and instead envision a clean and productive ocean free from any petroleum contamination. The only way this more positive image can come true is for us all to reach the hearts of our representatives in governments and industries, they have families, children, grandchildren; they care. There are great opportunities for new technologies and it’s time to act now for a reduction and end to offshore oil drilling, for the best technologies available and proper maintenance of all oil related infrastructure and transportation, and most importantly for a serious commitment by us all to use renewable energy. We are the only species that can choose not to disappear; it’s time to move in the right direction.
Protect the ocean and you protect yourself.
President, Ocean Futures Society
To Take Action please:
- Sign our petition demanding that Shell Oil stop their disastrous plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean.
For more information on this subject please:
- visit our Gulf of Mexico Expedition to learn about our work in the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill
- watch Jean-Michel Cousteau's Video Statement: Gulf Oil Disaster
- read Jean-Michel Cousteau's blog: Gulf Oil Spill
- watch Jean-Michel Cousteau's PSA: Florida Oil Drilling
Header Photo: 2010 Deep Horizon Oil Spill in the marshes of Venice, Louisiana. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society
Background Photo: 2010 Deep Horizon Oil Spill, Venice, Louisiana. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society