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A Gulf in Despair

Image credit: NASA

In the recent calamity that has befallen the Gulf of Mexico, government agencies, environmental groups, and most of all, British Petroleum scramble to contain the environmental disaster that has resulted from the recent explosion of a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Questions and criticism have been flying about how this could have happened, and more pointedly, who is to blame.

The Wall Street Journal’s Life & Style section features an article that does an outstanding job reviewing some of the history and decisions leading up to this event. If you haven’t already, I recommend you read it.

With eleven people dead, an entire region’s marine, coastal and wetland wildlife now in severe danger, and the fishery, tourism and shipping industries of the area threatened, the ramifications of the explosion are enormous and irreversible.

It calls a couple things to attention:

First, the importance of governance and safety measures around all areas of operation in any industry. For BP, years of cost-cutting measures have eroded their operations, resulting in more relaxed equipment, operational, and training standards, as well as cultural norms that upon crisis could not stand up to the test. However, in recent years, BP has somewhat successfully repositioned itself as a caring, even “greener” company through new branding and effective PR. However, this situation only further communicates the full gravity and need for a true commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) – and in this case, the terrible consequences that have occurred largely due to the absence of it.

Second, the aged question again of why we are so reliant on such a hazardous, unsustainable, dirty energy source? The world has had access to the technology for alternative energy sources for decades, but rather have left the focus as well as research and development of this industry by the way-side. The result is that although alternative energy is slowly growing, it is not nearly as accessible or common as it should be.

Around the world, certain countries and regions are taking up cause and leading the charge towards alternative and renewable energy. It’s a shame that more are not following. Globally, we need a better way to live so generations to come also have a planet to enjoy, and a better way of working where workers, environment and long-term sustainability are not sacrificed at the expense of profit margins. Responsible stewardship and alternative energy does not have to mean high costs and unsustainable economics. How many more calamities do we need before we learn from the past?


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