Kill All The Penguins!

Seriously, we might as well just kill all the fucking penguins:

A major spill of heavy crude oil from a wrecked freighter has coated an estimated 20,000 endangered penguins on a remote South Atlantic island chain, the local authorities and environmental groups said Tuesday.

Oil is not the only risk:

Conservation groups said the wreck could pose a different ecological threat to the chain as rats could have come ashore from the vessel, which was carrying 66,000 tons of soybeans from Brazil to Singapore. Several islands in the archipelago are rodent-free, and a rat infestation could potentially do more harm to bird life than any oiling, experts said.

Any idea what it’s like to deal with thousands of oil-slicked penguins? Read this story from last year in the New York Review of Books. Its heartbreaking:

Penguins and other seabirds are particularly vulnerable to oil spills. Some biologists believe that fish are attracted to floating oil slicks””much as they are to any floating object””and schools of fish inevitably attract penguins, as well as other seabirds and seals. When these air-breathing creatures attempt to feed on the fish, they must enter the slick, and so become oiled. The penguin breeding season was in full swing when the Treasure sank, and the shores of the islands were thick with fluffy chicks, their parents frantically setting out to sea to secure enough food to bring their young to maturity.

Within a week or so almost 20,000 birds had become soiled with oil. Even a spot of oil the size of a dime spells inevitable death for a penguin, for it destroys the feathers’ waterproofing, allowing freezing water to come into contact with the bird’s down and skin. Oiled birds have just two options: stay at sea and die of hypothermia, or come to land and slowly starve.

And then take note of what we are doing to our oceans:

The 1,300 aircraft that cross the Atlantic each day are, in Winchester’s words, ”œdirty and fuel-hungry monsters.” A fully loaded Boeing 777 burning Jet-A kerosene and flying from London to New York leaves behind in the sky seventy tons of carbon dioxide. Older aircraft do far worse. ”œThe ocean sees more than thirty-three million tons of plane-made carbon created in its skies every year.” Much effort is now being made to find ways of making air travel more efficient and carbon neutral, including new aircraft design and research into biologically based fuels deriving from plants and living creatures that during their growth consume large quantities of carbon dioxide.

The 70,000 ships that ply the oceans are also, Winchester writes, ”œdirty and fuel-hungry” and produce more carbon dioxide pollution than the entire continent of Africa. Far worse, the ocean has become a dumping ground for assorted wastes, foul and dangerous chemicals, plastics, and, until the 1970s, highly radioactive waste in huge quantities, not to mention the effluents of fish farms. Natural processes that cleanse an ocean even as large as the Atlantic cannot cope with this deadly assault.

Hope your Wednesday morning is better than the penguins.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • And shows many many things that are so wrong with our society:

    1. dependence on oil
    2. lax safety engorcement in the maritime industry

    Our legacy in Antartica will be to melt it’s ice-shelves, pollute its water with oil slicks, and infest its land with rodents and diseases the native wildlife cannot resist.

    Where is this ‘intelligent species’ I keep hearing about? I don’t see one, not on this planet.

    Oh well, some oil co. will write a check for a fine that represents one one-millionth of its profits (hey, a cost of doing business!), some minor “investigation” will enlighten us yet again with the info that the oil industry doesn’t follow it’s own safety standards, NO ONE will be held accountable or accused of ANYTHING (that might have a negative effect on the oil industry, so we can’t allow that to happen!).

    And Pres Obama will sign off on some more offshore oil rigs.

    Let’s hear it for the intelligent species!

  • Energy conservation, such as doubling the minimum required miles per gallon of the US auto fleet, would go a long way in solving a lot of ecological problems. But then we would have morons like Rand “my toilet doesn’t flush” Paul that will fight for the right to keep gas guzzlers, regardless of the consequences.

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