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State of Emergency Declared: California Oil Spill Now Estimated at 105,000 Gallons
Tuesday afternoon, news spread of the latest oil-related tragedy to occur in the U.S.—an oil pipeline ruptured in Santa Barbara County in Central California, along the Refugio State Beach coastline. Though the pipeline was on land, it was found to be leaking into a culvert that eventually emptied into the ocean. By the time the pipeline was shut off, oil had been spilling into the sea for at least three hours.
As of Tuesday evening, officials claimed that an estimated 21,000 gallons had spilled into the ocean in an oil slick that was four miles wide. Unfortunately, as of yesterday morning, the slick had spread to at least nine miles wide, as the winds and tides did what they do. And now, a new estimate says that up to 105,000 gallons of oil might have been spilled. Yesterday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the effects of the oil spill on Santa Barbara County.
Refugio State Beach has been closed indefinitely. The area is a sensitive and important place for all kinds of species, including migratory whales and rare seabirds—and wildlife has already been affected. Though there is no estimate of how much wildlife has been impacted so far, things don’t look good.
The cleanup is painstaking work. There are several dozen workers outfitted in protective suits and helmets on the beach, shoveling up contaminated mud and rocks into plastic bags. It is made more arduous by having to take place both on shore and on the water, since the oil originated on land.
Greenpeace visited the site to survey the true damage, to share with the world the devastation to the Santa Barbara County coastline, and to communicate the dangers of fossil fuels so that we can transition to clean energy and prevent this from happening again.
Plains All American Pipeline, the company that owns the ruptured pipeline, has a history of spills. The company has apologized, with the district manager saying, “We’re sorry this accident has happened, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience to the community.”
This spill has not occurred in a vacuum. We can now add it to the sad history of oil-related spills and accidents that have happened the world over in the past years—including one that happened very near to this area in 1969, which spilled 3 million gallons of oil into the ocean.
As Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace, has said, “Oil spills are never accidents. They are the direct result of substandard oversight of fossil fuel companies who put their profits above human and environmental impacts.” Each time a spill, oil train explosion or some other disaster occurs, we look to our leaders to take responsibility to make change. So far they’ve demonstrated that they don’t have the courage to stand up to Big Oil.
We all hope that this oil spill will quickly be contained and cleaned up. But are we willing to keep taking chances for future accidents to occur? I can’t help but think of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s research that shows that there’s a 75 percent chance of an oil spill occurring in the Arctic if drilling takes place there. Even with that scary fact, the Obama administration has decided to give Shell the conditional go-ahead to drill. Let’s demand better from our President and other leaders before it’s too late.
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"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
- Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change ›
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- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›