On March 24, 1989, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach ran aground off the coast of Alaska. The tanker, called the Exxon Valdez, spilled as much as 750,000 barrels of crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound. Local wildlife — including salmon, otters, seals, and seabirds — were decimated; because of the Sound’s remoteness, cleanup was exceedingly difficult. The Exxon-Valdez spill was, at the time, one of the worst man-caused environmental disasters in history.
Three decades later, US coastal waters were marred by an even worse environmental disaster: the explosion and sinking of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig. On April 20th, 2010, BP’s sea-floor well started gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In the months it took to successfully cap the well, almost 5 million barrels of oil spilled; because of the depth of the water and the quantity of oil, widespread cleanup was impossible. The Deepwater Horizon spill remains the worst marine oil spill in history.
Disasters like these pique our environmental curiosity, prompting us to ask questions. What mark are we leaving on the world? How can accidents like the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon be prevented?
Explore the answers to these — and more — questions this month at the DC Environmental Film Festival. The festival runs from March 12 through March 24 (the anniversary of Exxon Valdez) and will be hosted by dozens of schools, libraries, museums, and even embassies all around the city. Many of the festival’s 190 films are free, while others cost as little as $5-10. The movies range from children’s films to more serious documentaries; some — like The African Queen — are dramatizations, while others — like The Age of Aluminum — are straight fact. All are intended to “provide fresh perspectives on environmental issues facing our planet.”
DC-area residents should be particularly interested in The Anacostia River, a collection of short films about our local waterways. It will be showing on March 17 at the National Museum of American History.
Can’t make it to any of the films? Brush up on your environmental knowledge with the following Trinity resources:
- Environmental Awakening: The New Revolution to Protect the Earth / Rice Odell
- Environmental Activism: A Reference Handbook / Jacqueline Vaughn Switzer
- The Environmental Crisis: Opposing Viewpoints / Neal Bernards (Ed)
- Environmental Ecology: The Ecological Effects of Pollution, Disturbance, and Other Stresses / Bill Freedman
- Environmental Ethics: Duties To and Values In the Natural World / Holmes Rolston III
- Oil Spills and the Marine Environment / Donald F. Boesch, Carl H. Hershner, and Jerome H. Milgram
- Green, Inc.: A Guide to Businesses and the Environment / Frances Cairncross
- The Dictionary of Ecology and Environmental Science / Henry W. Art (Ed)
- The Green-Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix our Two Biggest Problems / Van Jones
- Greening the College Curriculum: A Guide to Environmental Teaching in the Liberal Arts / Jonathan Collett and Stephen Karakashian (Eds)
For more information on the Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon, and oil spills, check out the following articles:
- Beaumont, P. (Mar 31, 2012). Gulf’s dolphins pay heavy price for Deepwater oil spill. The Observer.
- Biello, D. (June 9, 2010). Interview: The BP spill’s growing toll on the sea life of the gulf. Yale Environment 360.
- Blumenfeld, E. (May 17, 2011). Exposing the human side of BP’s oil spill. Al-Jazeera English.
- Exxon Valdez is barred from Alaska Sound. (Nov 2, 2002). New York Times.
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about oil and chemical spills. (Feb 25, 2013). National Ocean Service Office of Response and Restoration.
- Graham, S. (Dec 19, 2003). Environmental effects of Exxon Valdez spill still being felt. Scientific American.
- Haycox, S. (2012). “Fetched up”: Unlearned lessons from the Exxon Valdez. Journal Of American History, 99(1), 219-228.
- Henkel, J. R., Sigel, B. J., & Taylor, C. M. (2012). Large-scale impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Can local disturbance affect distant ecosystems through migratory shorebirds?. Bioscience, 62(7), 676-685.
- Juhasz, A. (Apr 18, 2012). Investigation: Two years after the BP spill, a hidden health crisis festers. The Nation.
- Klein, N. (2010). A hole in the world. Nation, 291(2), 14-20.
- Liszka, J. (2010). Lessons from the the Exxon Valdez oil spill: A case study in retributive and corrective justice for harm to the environment. Ethics & The Environment, 15(2), 1-30.
- MacAskill, E. (Feb 1, 2007). 18 years on, Exxon Valdez oil still pours into Alaskan waters. The Guardian.
- Marshall, M. (2012). Final voyage for Exxon Valdez. New Scientist, 213(2858), 6-7.
- Opar, A. (May 23, 2012). Migratory birds carry chemicals from BP oil spill to Minnesota two years after disaster. Audubon Magazine.
- Palinkas, L. A. (2012). A conceptual framework for understanding the mental health impacts of oil spills: Lessons from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Psychiatry: Interpersonal & Biological Processes, 75(3), 203-222.
- Questions and Answers. (2012). Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.
- Reuters. (May 17, 2006). Exxon Valdez oil spill still a threat: Study. ABC News.
- Robertson, C. and Krauss, C. (Aug 2, 2010). Gulf spill is the largest of its kind, scientists say. The New York Times.
- Tangley, L. (June 17, 2010). Bird habitats threatened by oil spill. National Wildlife Federation.
- University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. (Mar 20, 2012). Oil from Deepwater Horizon disaster entered food chain in the Gulf of Mexico. Science Daily.
- US spill ‘threatens way of life.’ (May 2, 2010). BBC News.