Environmental Disasters

Hosted byArt Bell

Environmental Disasters


  • On a Sea of Oil
  • Exxon Valdez v. BP Oil Spill
  • CO2 and Greenland
  • About the show

    Filling in for George, Art Bell welcomed Pres. of the Natl. Wildlife Federation, Larry Schweiger, who discussed the impact of the Gulf oil disaster as well as other pending environmental issues which threaten the planet.

    Having made a number of visits to the Gulf since the disaster started, Schweiger detailed his first-hand observations of the situation. Recounting one boat trip into the affected area, he described the experience as "very, very eerie." Schweiger noted that a blanket of raw, untreated oil coated the water, making it "black as night" and dampened the waves. He recalled that there were no birds in the area and that the oil was so thick that no fish were visible below because "you couldn't even see half an inch into the water." Schweiger also said that, on a different trip into the waters, the dispersing chemicals being used by BP were so strong that they took the color out of the shirt he was wearing.

    In looking at how to solve the crisis, he was critical of the use of chemical dispersements on the oil, pointing out that the chemical used by BP is "more toxic than the oil itself." Particularly problematic, Schweiger said, was that these dispersements are allowing the oil to go underwater, slip under the protective barriers, and enter the marshes, which could have longstanding negative environmental effects. On how to stop the flow of oil, he dismissed the idea of using a nuclear weapon or other explosives to implode the well, because such a method is too unproven and potentially dangerous. While he described the concept of creating relief wells to intercept the oil as the "greatest hope that we have," he chillingly warned that the "chances of that working are not great."

    Beyond the Gulf oil disaster, Schweiger talked about how the ongoing addition of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is creating a dramatic increase in temperature which could have "profound impacts on important ecological systems." So dire is the situation, he said, that scientists estimate that "we're headed to lose 30 to 39% of the species on our planet, if we don't change our behavior." To elucidate the effect of Earth's rising temperature, he discussed the tremendous amount of ice that is melting in Greenland and revealed it has resulted in the formation of two new Nile-size rivers that are flowing into the ocean. Musing that "what happens in Greenland will not stay in Greenland," he explained that raising the sea level by merely one meter would result in the displacement of about 100 million people.

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