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Another year, another Exxon Valdez… welcome to Nigeria

September 14 2010 | Oil Pollution, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

A silver lining to the Gulf spill (if there can be such a thing) has been that Americans are finally aware that oil... spills. Maybe I can stretch what we've learned to suggest that we now know that oil spills with some frequency. In the Fall of 2009 there was a ten-week oil spill off the coast of Australia. During that time I felt like I was on a soapbox trying to get someone... anyone to pay attention. The spill went on for ten weeks, after all. Even with a rat-ta-tat-tat frequency of Facebook posts, blogs and tweets, all I got were crickets. No one really connected with it. Like many of us I grew up in the United States, but I have also traveled extensively outside the US. One thing I've learned is that that Americans are very self-centered. There is an old Saul Steinberg illustration of Manhattan that sums this up. It's a view of that island and essentially nothing else. New Yorkers view themselves as the center of the universe (or the only people IN the universe) and US citizens are a pretty seamless extension of this. So let me point to Nigeria. It's in Africa. I was aware of their less-than-perfect environmental record when if came to oil spills but I had no clue it was as bad as it is. The Exxon Valdez spilled in the US a few decades ago and there was a fairly large cultural response (complete with policy shifts, business practice shifts, etc.). Nigeria has the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez spill every single year. That's... stunning. Two points here. First, I encourage you to seek out non-American news sources. I'm a BBC fan myself but there are certainly others out there. These sources simply offer a more balanced view of what is really happening on the planet. Second, understand that what is happening in the Gulf is not new. Spills happen... all the time. Unfortunately, they also impact the world's coastlines... all the time. For more, read our Not the Answer blog.
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