How many times does a tanker have to sink in the middle of the ocean, belching forth its filthy, lethal contents before we finally admit to ourselves that so-called “modern” humans have no idea how to live on the planet Earth without destroying it? Apparently it has to happen at least once more. Recently the ship Prestige broke in half off the coast of Galicia, defiling hundreds of miles of natural habitat with 2.5 million gallons of highly toxic fuel and sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
And that’s not even the worst part. The ship was transporting twenty million gallons of fuel oil that have not even started to leak. If those twenty million gallons happen to somehow spring a leak before rescue crews can pump them out of the ship’s carcass, there will be an oil spill twice as disastrous as the infamous Exxon-Valdez spill.
Still not scary enough? Well, in order to get cleanup crews to the site, the countries involved must decide who is going to foot the bill. After all, it happened off the coast of Spain, but it was a Greek ship that was sailing under a Bahamian flag. I might be cynical, but the absurd, ineffectual dance that is international politics isn’t exactly known for producing quick decisions, especially not when money is concerned.
This recent shipwreck has bearing on many issues in America as well as in the world. It questions the slavish devotion to and dependence on oil, a political and environmental problem. It questions how much further we can push our environment before it simply breaks. It questions how much longer we can elect politicians like President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, who read the word “environmental” but only see the letters “o-i-l,” until we realize these problems are very serious and require very serious attention.
Some people might call me a bleeding heart liberal, a tree hugger, or another of those pejorative names that financial conservatives with serious interests in big business invented in the 1980s to nullify the sentiment of environmentally conscious people and movements. Those people are precisely the problem.
Look at the facts. The world has only been industrialized in the modern sense for maybe 200 years. If we can do this much damage in such a short time, who knows what just ten more years or ten more oil spills will bring?
Travis Atria is a junior majoring in English literature.