Saturday, 22 May 2010

Thoughts on Oil

It is interesting at this time of the immense and catastrophic oil disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, to note the wave of anxiety issuing forth from the blogosphere about the entire context of offshore drilling and what that means now or could mean in the future. It has been pretty usual over the last two weeks or more to be getting three or four mails per day asking me to sign a petition calling for the banning of some programs, or the halting of plans for future others.
These emails caused me to reflect on a conversation I had about oil exploration in the amazon back last year when I took a group into the rainforest for a three week trip. Our guide was a very active advocate of indigenous rights, and we were conversing about how the Ecuadorean government had opened up a part of Cuyabeno reserve to oil exporation. The communities were protesting about the invasion of their territory, and were mostly worried about what would happen in the event of a disaster happening to their part of the world. Our guide was of the opinion that technology has come so far, as well as awareness and global and social responsibility, since the 80's where we saw the Texaco destruction in the Lago Agrio area, as well as the Exxon Valdez disaster, so after three decades of learning how not to do it, he opined that lessons had been learned, and that such disasters were extremely unlikely. The wider and possibly more serious consequences of such exploration are the effects of social change on indigenous communities, and the ever lasting effect that continues long after the oil runs dry.
At the time, that made sense to me, and clear cut logging was probably inevitably more destructive in the longer term, and so was oil a viable alternative with possible ecological benefits?
I have not answered that question in my own mind, but what I can now say, is that "a low risk scenario" is not at all acceptable. There absolutely has to be a "zero risk scenario" or we just simply should not be exploring for fossil fuels in these pristine wilderness'. The multi identity (pass the buck) BP mess up in the gulf of mexico has reminded everyone that even the small risk is too big to take, and that even the tiniest chance of risk can bring the most monumental consequences.

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