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Aspirin- the petrol pill to cure headachesMay, 19, 2014
Here are four everyday products I bet you never knew contained derivations of petrol: lipstick, gum, crayons and aspirin. Everyone knows that petroleum provides gasoline for our cars and jet fuel for airplanes, but our global, national and individual dependency on the substance is in fact far more culturally interwoven than one would think.
In about 125 years we have managed to consume over half of the world’s 50-300 million year old petrol resources and due to increases in extraction technology and equipment, consumption has never been as high as it is now. Our current global demand for and rate of consumption of petroleum is unsustainable. In a few years’ time, at most, global petrol extraction will reach ‘Peak Oil’, marking the point of maximum production, and its subsequent, rapid decline.
However, we do not have the infrastructure nor sufficient alternatives in place which would enable us to make a global transition to alternative energies come that day. Therefore, as citizens of the World we must ask, why not? Why are we investing so much money on conflict, on weaponry, on nuclear power, on oil, when our imminent future is dependent on the sourcing of renewable energies?
Despite the undeniable depletion of our World’s petroleum there is another face to this story: the oil industry is an ugly business. It is one which tends to make the rich richer and the poor, poorer, being as it is, one of the biggest international commodities. In our blind-sighted thirst for this resource, we have forgotten our humanity. Let me introduce you to the case of Ecuador’s national park, Yasuní, arguably the most bio-diverse place on Earth. Yasuní national park covers an area of 9,820km² deep in the Ecuadorean Amazon jungle. Since the discovery of oil there, estimated to be 20% of Ecuador’s total petrol reserves, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, initiated an ambitious plan; he asked rich nations to donate half the expected revenue anticipated to be generated over ten years from the national park’s oil reserves, in order to leave the oil in the ground. As he stated, this was not a charity fund, but away in which the World could responsibly contribute to the reduction of greenhouse emissions.
On account of the funds raised falling short of the $7.2bn benchmark, plans to exploit the park ‘responsibly’ are due to go ahead. However, as I mentioned previously, Yasuní’s biological diversity is rivalled by none. Many of its plant and animal species are endemic to the area, with over 130 species of animal, such as the giant armadillo and jaguar, threatened by extinction as it is. Moreover, the national park since 1989, a designated UNESCO Biosphere reserve, is home to two indigenous tribes, the Tageari and the Taromenane who are in voluntary isolation.
Exploiting the national park’s oil reserves will threaten and affect the species living there by unavoidable petrol contamination, sound pollution, deforestation and subsequent illegal lodging, poaching and colonization in the area. Despite Correa’s insistence of safe operation methods, contamination and detrimental effects to the environment are unavoidable and to be expected. Alternative energy sources are available to be exploited, developed and invested in, so why can’t we leave the oil reserves below Yasuní untapped? In lieu of this, I am asking: can we justify this to happen for the lifestyles that we are used to leading?
The Amazon does not just represent the planet’s greatest biodiversity, but it provides around 20% of the World’s oxygen. By compromising that, we are threatening a vital life source for all living beings. I think it is unrealistic to suggest that we should cut out all petrol-derived products, we are nowhere near the stage of being able to do that yet, not nationally nor on an individual basis, but I think that each one of us can become more conscious of their use of petrol and see what they can do in their life to reduce that consumption.
Moreover, we must raise our voices to protect those places of wilderness and biodiversity, which are not just national but global treasures. We are our Planet. Can you justify it?
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