Article Summary #2 (March 13th)

by Stefan on March 13, 2018 - 11:56pm

The article titled “Environmental Consequences of Oil Spills”, written by Larry West for ThoughtCo, outlines, as its title states, the consequences of oil spills originating from sources such as pipelines, on the environment. West explains that an oil spill on land infiltrates the soil and may render it unable to sustain the lives of local plants as well as it used to. This can affect the entire ecosystem if other creatures are dependent on the existence or abundance of these plants. West also points out that a similar pattern occurs when an oil spill contaminates water, as it can reduce the population of species near the contamination site, thereby reducing the population of its predators. The author gives specific examples of oil spills, such as the a 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico which was detrimental to the lives of many bird and marine species or the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, responsible for the deaths of seals and sea otters, for example. A major finding cited by the author to further elaborate on the extensive damage that the Exxon Valdez spill caused was a study from 2007 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He concluded the article by explaining that the degree of damage that an oil spill can create depends on many geographical factors, but also on the oil itself and the amount of it that is spilled.  


Perhaps one of the most difficult roadblocks to overcome in regards to oil is how much it is tied to our economy. If we simply cannot transition any faster, a plan b in my opinion would be to focus on improving oil-transportation technology and at least limit the amount of damage sustained by various ecosystems.




I chose to comment on your summary because I found it to be very interesting and extremely relevant today. As you said, oil is a huge part of our economy, and will continue to be a huge part until we can find another resource. I totally agree with you that the best way to solve/better the situation is to improve "transportation technology". Doing this could prevent any further or decrease the amount of environmental catastrophies. However I also think that the improvement of "oil-spill clean-up technology" would also greatly help the situation. At least if the oil can be properly cleaned up, it decreases a few problems. Although in the article "Numbers don't lie", Andrew Nikiforuk states that there are three things to do in order for this to work. "Communities most affected by catastrophic spills must have the democratic right to say no to what can potentially cause them: tankers or pipelines. Second, authorities must publicly recognize that the only technological standard that matters should be full recovery of the oil. Last but not least, governments must properly price the risk of catastrophic spills and demand multi-billion dollar bonds for the worst-case analysis." (Nikiforuk 2016). Hopefully in the future, if oil is still very much involved, we can lower the chances of spills and the harming of environments and their ecosystems.

Nikiforuk, A. (2016). The numbers don't lie. Alternatives Journal, 42(4), 76. Retrieved from

Today (March 20 2018), we learned in class that DDTs and PCBs are what is often called persistent chemicals, and its effects on the environment such as biomagnification and bioaccumulation. When i read your article, a thought immediately popped in my mind "how about oil spills and its effects on the fish who live in it and the animals who drink the contaminated water?"
According to the article "The effects of oil spills on marine fish: Implication of spatial variation in natural mortality.", written by O. Langangen, Fish eggs and larvae tend to be very vulnerable to toxic oil compounds because of their small size. Even at small concentrations can prove fatal to small marine life such as the aforementioned. According to the article, depending on the spatial variation, the effects could either lessen or worsen. The study was concluded with the statement that this problem is being largely underestimated and that it is possible to control the effects of oil spill as long as the spill is immediately contained.

I believe that this is another problem that we tend to avoid because oil is such a precious commodity to people that they think of the lost profits rather than the lives that will be lost when seeing such a spill. Thank you for raising this subject.

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