What Are We Doing To Our Planet?

Pollution comes in many forms. Whether it’s throwing a plastic bottle out your window onto a dirty road, or companies burning fossil fuels, it's killing our planet little by little. Oil spills, however, are seeming to have the most significant impact on our lives as well as the lives of marine animals. 


Around mid-August, an abandoned oil tanker was discovered to be slowly spilling its contaminants in the Caribbean. Known as FSO Nabarima, the Venezuelan vessel has 1.3 million barrels of oil just waiting to be toppled over. That amount of oil spilling into the ocean could have catastrophic effects on southern Caribbean waters, especially harming marine life and the jobs of thousands of fishermen.


Oil spills can cause some animals to lose their insulating abilities while making others less water-repellent. This could result in death as those affected catch hypothermia from the cold waters, about 82,000 birds and 25,900 marine animals having been killed as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But it’s not just animals that are affected. The plants that make up sea life become toxic as well, providing fewer habitats and food resources for millions of creatures.


PDVSA, the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company, claims that the ship doesn’t pose a threat yet environmental groups think otherwise as hurricane season approaches the region. Many images taken by FFOS, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, of the tilting ship were reported false by the government until Gary Aboud took to the sea to confirm their authenticity. It seems that many government officials don’t care about the situation and economically benefiting from the oil has become more important than saving those affected by it.


Cleaning up oil spills isn’t easy. In fact, tarballs, or blobs of petroleum, can stay in oceans and on beaches for years. If they come into contact with another surface, particularly a hard one, they can crack open and spill more oil, contributing to the lasting and damaging effects of oil spills. To this day, dolphins and sea turtles are still being killed by oil spills in the Gulf. In addition, fish reproduction in the sea becomes less common as eggs are killed by contaminated waters. Since oil doesn’t mix with water, layers of it are just left to float. Even though there are many methods such as dispersants to clean up oil spills, the chemicals in the products we use have been found to be toxic for corals. Over the years, scientists have developed new ways to combat oil spills yet many methods are still in their early stages.


Environmental policy, both foreign and domestic, is the best way to currently fight the consequences of oil spills. If we don’t speak to our lawmakers about what harming the oceans means for our future, we may not even have one. People will not just lose their jobs but animals will eventually go extinct.