By Amitabh Pal on July 23, 2014

The Obama Administration has given the go-ahead to a massive new oil exploration program off the Atlantic coast. It has approved the use of underwater blasts of sound to pinpoint oil and gas deposits in federal Atlantic Ocean waters.

“Imagine dynamite going off in your neighborhood every ten seconds for days, weeks and months on end,” says Michael Jasny, a marine mammal expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Now imagine that you depend on your hearing to feed, mate, communicate and do just about everything else necessary for survival. That’s the situation that endangered whales and other wildlife are facing with air gun exploration.”

The White House’s decision disappointed many environmentalists, as well as representatives of East Coast fisheries, and the tourism industry.

“Obama is caving to the constant pressure from business (oil and gas and its allies) to exploit every potential oil field, whether off our coasts, in delicate terrestrial ecosystems, or the Arctic,” Joshua Horwitz, author of the new book War of the Whales: A True Story, told The Progressive.

The measure is also inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s vow to fight global warming.

“Opening vast stretches off the East Coast to oil and gas has no place in an otherwise historic agenda to combat climate change,” Jasny told the Associated Press.

The decision “applies to an area of ocean twice the size of California from Delaware to Florida,” reports the ThinkProgress website. The testing will begin next year, with the sale of offshore leases starting in 2017 and actual drilling commencing a few years after.

The consequences could be devastating for “whales and other marine wildlife,” says Horwitz. “Air guns that will be firing from the water's surface downward every six seconds, around the clock. If you're, for instance, a North Atlantic right whale—the most endangered species of whale on Earth, with only about 500 surviving whales today—you will likely abandon your coastal migration path and foraging grounds simply to escape the acoustic storm of the constant air gun volleys.”

“The ocean is an acoustic world,” adds Jasny. “When we let industry blast away with large guns, we are fundamentally compromising the health of our oceans.”

More than 100 marine scientists and conservation biologists signed a letter to President Obama in February urging caution before any such move.

Democrats in Congress who represent districts along the Eastern seaboard have expressed public disagreement.

“Seismic testing in the Atlantic is a first major step towards offshore oil drilling, to which I am absolutely opposed,” Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey stated in a press release. “The inevitable environmental costs of expanding oil and gas exploration into the Atlantic Ocean are great. With New Jersey’s coastal economy still reeling from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, our fishing and tourism industries need to be protected from further challenges to their economic and environmental well-being.”

Horwitz foresees a dire future.

“The worst news is that unless citizens rise up in loud and unified protest, these air gun brigades are simply the precursor of the off-shore oil extraction rigs that will doubtless follow,” he says. “More noise, more pollution, both noise-based and toxic substances, are destined to be fouling out coastal ecosystems and beaches. Unless we reverse this trend, the East Coast of the United States could soon resemble the Gulf Coast.”

Jasny and Horwitz both urge the Obama Administration to do an about-face.

“Simply put: change course,” Jasny advises the White House. “Withdraw the recent decision.”

And Horwitz asks the public to start mobilizing: “Unless the EPA stands up to the Interior Department and says ‘No Go,’ it will fall to citizen groups to oppose this environmentally destructive decision.”

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Comments

Please protect our earth, at all costs. It is for the future of this planet. You have the choice!
YOU CANNOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN.
come on barack, you bought by the oil comp[anies too?

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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