April 18, 2013

Mock Oil Spill at Cornell Raises Awareness of Drilling

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The scent of chocolate syrup wafted through Ho Plaza Thursday as student activists staged a mock oil spill to mark the three-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history.

The students dressed in yellow cleanup suits while sponging off stuffed animal fishes covered in the syrup meant to imitate oil.

“The display is hard to miss,” said Brendan O’Brian ’15, a participant of the demonstration and a member of the Sustainability Hub, a student organization advocating campus sustainability.

The event included students and professors delivering speeches about the negative effects of offshore drilling.

Prof. Bruce Monger, atmospheric and earth sciences, spoke about the importance of “[raising] your voice in order to make things better and change things,” something he said he emphasizes in his class, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences 1540: Introductory Oceanography.

“This isn’t somebody else’s stuff. This is your stuff. These are your whales and your fish as they are anybody else’s,” Monger said.

The demonstration was sponsored by Oceana, an international ocean conservation group. Throughout the event, students collected signatures for a petition the organization is circulating against seismic testing, the practice of searching for gas reserves and predicting earthquakes by blasting sound pulses in the ocean.

Critics of seismic testing contend that the practice damages marine wildlife by blasting loud sounds and vibrations in the water.

According to Alyssa Phelan ’14, Oceana’s petition will be sent to President Barack Obama to ask him to ban seismic testing.

“[Such testing] would kill 130,000 whales and dolphins and create the possibility of another oil spill,” Phelan said.

Alex Ilich ’15, one of the students participating in the demonstration, emphasized the need to provide a sustainable energy alternative to fossil fuels.

“It’s one thing to say ‘no drilling,’ but that doesn’t help if we don’t have an alternative,” Ilich said.

Ilich added that wind energy is a cost-effective way to provide power that could create three times as many new jobs as the oil industry.

Prof. Chuck Greene, earth and atmospheric sciences, came to the event in support of his colleague, Monger.

Greene said there are many alternatives to oil that can “power our society,” but said it is important to find sources that would meet society’s demands for power even “when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining.”

Monger praised the efforts of students involved in organizing the demonstration.

“These students could be sitting around drinking a cup of coffee. Instead, they are here trying to make a difference,” Monger said.

Original Author: Emma Quigley