More Oil Where It Shouldn't Be

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Maybe it’s global warming or just Mother Nature showing her displeasure at the way we are inflicting wounds on her body, but I was awakened early this morning by the most powerful thunderstorm I can remember. The rain was literally coming down in buckets, and the lightning lit up the bedroom like an old-fashioned flash bulb.

I, like most, have been focusing on the Gulf blow-out, but this is not the only place where drilling operations are creating havoc. Nigeria, where several international oil companies have been operating for quite a while, is suffering from both natural and political fallout. I won’t say much about this except to point to this link from the Guardian. This paragraph telegraphs the story.

With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution. Life expectancy in its rural communities, half of which have no access to clean water, has fallen to little more than 40 years over the past two generations. Locals blame the oil that pollutes their land and can scarcely believe the contrast with the steps taken by BP and the US government to try to stop the Gulf oil leak and to protect the Louisiana shoreline from pollution.

The social consequences have been well documented in both news reports and in fiction. I recommend two fictional treatments. One is a novel, Little Bee, by Chris Cleave; the other is one of the short stories in a collection, Say You’re One of Them, by the African writer, Uwem Akpan.

Would the profits of these companies be the largest of any corporations if they had to pay for the damages they inflict to the Earth and its inhabitants, human and otherwise? Would we do if these costs showed up at the gasoline pump?

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