Three wisdom-laden cliches apply to discussions about proposals to expand oil exploration into South Carolina’s coastal waters, as well as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
“Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” Wise stewardship of environmental and financial resources means protecting the assets that generate the “interest.” For South Carolinians, healthy, productive ecosystems in these two locations are important ecological assets. In contrast, the “come and gone” industrial development on Georgetown’s waterfront is a dead goose. If coastal communities embrace the oil industry, what happens 50 years from now when that industry declines and the community is left to live around this industrial infrastructure?
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While it may appear to have little to do with South Carolina, the Alaska refuge is another golden goose for our state because out-of-state birdwatchers visit our coast to watch migratory shorebirds that spend their summers om Alaska. Two-thirds of Alaska’s North Slope is already open to oil exploration, so why expand it into the remaining third when the global oil market is currently glutted?
“There is nothing to be learned by the second kick of a mule.” In the 1960s and 1970s, Americans learned how pollution impacted human health and degraded the quality of life. The outcome was that Congress, under a Republican president, passed a series of environmental laws designed to maintain a healthy balance between resource exploitation and environmental protection. Why repeat the mistakes of the past by ignoring this time-tested balance?
“We don’t know what we don’t know.” Some argue that oil exploration can be done without hurting the environment, but scientists have had insufficient resources to truly understand what is required to keep Alaskan tundra and South Carolina’s offshore waters healthy.
The oil industry is not run by villains; it is led by people who care about the environment, who work hard to do a good job and most of the time are successful at protecting the environment as they provide the energy this country requires. But any time humans become part of a landscape, they change it. Why risk hurting the quality of our grandchildren’s lives by unintentionally degrading the ecological assets that these regions represent, when the potential economic gains are, at best, minimal?
Christopher P. Marsh