by Theodora Filis
The doubling of the world’s population over the past five decades is putting great strain on deep-sea ecosystems, which cover more than half of Earth. According to researchers gathered at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, these ecosystems are now threatened by the same kind of mass industrialization common on land during the 20th century.
The Earth’s oceans are all connected to one another. Until the year 2000, there were four recognized oceans: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic. In the Spring of 2000, the International Hydro-graphic Organization delimited a new ocean, the Southern Ocean (it surrounds Antarctica and extends to 60 degrees latitude). There are also many seas (smaller branches of an ocean); seas are often partly enclosed by land. The largest seas are the South China Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Our nation’s oceans, waves and beaches are vital recreational, economic and ecological treasures that will be polluted by an increase in offshore oil and gas drilling.
The Gulf oil spill (also known as the BP oil spill, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or Gulf of Mexico oil spill) took place on April 20, 2010. The rig exploded, but at first seemed to emit no oil. A leak eventually was found – 1,000 barrels of oil flooded into the Gulf’s water every day. This oil spill was the worst man-made environmental disaster in all of United States history. Water was ruined and undrinkable, marine animals washed ashore dead, and everything was coated in a thick film of oil. A year later it was said that “fish and seabirds were marinating in black sludge.”
Today there are some 2,000 platforms drilling on deep sea ocean floors, bringing with it the potential for environmental disaster of the sort we saw with the Deepawater Horizon.
The discovery in late 2010 of natural gas off Israel’s Mediterranean shores triggered neighboring countries to look more closely at their own waters. The results revealed that the entire eastern Mediterranean is swimming in huge untapped oil and gas reserves. That discovery is having enormous political, geopolitical as well as economic consequences. It well may have potential military consequences too.
Preliminary exploration has confirmed similar reserves of gas and oil in the waters off Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and potentially, Syria.
Greece imports almost all of its oil and natural gas, spending about 5 percent a year of its GDP on the purchases. It pays about 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) a year alone on oil to produce electricity for dozens of islands that are not connected to the national power grid.
Not surprisingly, amid its disastrous financial crisis the Greek government began serious exploration for oil and gas. Since then the country has been in a curious kind of a dance with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU governments, over who will control and ultimately benefit from the huge resource discoveries there.
In December 2010, Greece’s Energy Ministry formed a special group of experts to research the prospects for oil and gas in Greek waters. Greece’s Energean Oil & Gas began increased investment into drilling in the offshore waters after a successful smaller oil discovery in 2009. Major geological surveys were made. Preliminary estimates total offshore oil in Greek waters exceeds 22 billion barrels in the Ionian Sea off western Greece and approximately 4 billion barrels in the northern Aegean Sea.
The southern Aegean Sea and Cretan Sea are yet to be explored, so the numbers could be significantly higher. An earlier Greek National Council for Energy Policy report stated that “Greece is one of the least explored countries in Europe regarding hydrocarbon (oil and gas-w.e.) potentials.”
Despite what many Greeks believe to be a financially rewarding endeavor, offshore drilling will have damaging effects on their environment, and ultimately their strong tourism industry.
Oceans provide us with vital sources of protein, energy, minerals and other products. Creates over half our oxygen, drives weather systems and natural flows of energy and nutrients around the world, transports water masses many times greater than all the rivers on land combined and keeps the Earth habitable.
Let’s try to remember that the next time we want to exploit, pollute, and abuse our oceans and seas.