This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Our coast and marine life are still impacted by this devastating event. Personally, I will never forget the images of pelicans and seagulls dripping in mucky oil. Unfortunately, it seems we still have a lot to learn as all of them remain at risk from other offshore drilling disasters. Why this is the case, doesn’t make any sense. Why should we be investing in dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, when renewable energy is ready and available? One is safe and clean, while the other devastates the environment and may result in disastrous oil spills off the coast of any state.
Americans from coast to coast recognized this, and decided to speak out.
Over the past month, I have collected video testimonials from beach-loving citizens, mayors of coastal towns, and congressional members across the country–all expressing why the coast is worth protecting from the risks of offshore drilling.
Clear lessons came from these on-camera interviews. Not only can offshore drilling leave our oceans and marine life suffering due to spills, but it also increases our societal dependence on fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels is the number one contributor to climate change. In order to combat climate change, we need to move to renewable energy sources, not continue to use destructive fossil fuels.
This isn’t news for Environment America and state affiliates such as Environment North Carolina. For years we’ve worked on campaigns to raise awareness for the risks associated with offshore drilling. We have built coalitions, conducted public education and polling, and lobbied to elected officials on the matter.
But it sure is powerful when you see people impacted by this practice explain that when we drill, we spill. For example, I heard from Heather Cozette Shannon, a passionate citizen in California, who said that in Solvang, Calif., a stroll on her local beach resulted in “sticky black tar on your feet, hands, body and sea bird[s].” She added that we need to, “stand up for ourselves, nature and the Earth.”
Deborah Parker from Bellingham, Wash., told me about growing up “sailing in the Great South Bay with [her] brothers and parents from the age of 6.” She remembered how clear and mesmerizing the water was. Decades later, she tried to recreate the experience for her own children. Unfortunately, on their “maiden voyage out [of] the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet…[they found] the roaring glare of oil rigs…everywhere [they] looked.” She was disgusted by the experience.
Elected officials from coastal towns told me how vital a healthy ocean is to their community’s economic well-being. Southport, N.C., Alderman Lori Sharkey said: “A clean and healthy Atlantic Ocean is vital to the welfare of [Southport] citizens and the business owners in town.” Ben Sproul, who is the mayor of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., explained that, ““[a future with renewable energy] is bigger and brighter, than petroleum’s rosiest prospects,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Many are understandably emotional about the sea and what it means to them and their families. For instance, Nat Hollister in Chapel Hill, N.C. talked about how the ocean helped her cope with her father’s deployment. Similarly, Jeff Marks in Ocean Park, M.E. described how the ocean is essential in keeping his mental well-being. The sea, he said, “has provided [him] with a peaceful escape during challenging times.”
The power of seeing these people explain their connection to the sea was inspiring. I noticed that neither where they were from nor their occupation mattered. It only took a singular visit to the ocean — or even an aquarium — to form a connection with the sea and its creatures and decide they’re worth preserving. Calling on our senators to protect the oceans from the dangers of offshore drilling is of the utmost importance. Our coasts and marine life cannot withstand another Deepwater Horizon disaster. The videos I saw prove this.