Oil exploration on the beautiful Sussex Downs of England – are we ready for “micro” oilfields?

Across the planet areas that were once considered areas of national importance or regarded as irreplaceable habitats for a country’s ecological diversity are now being put at risk by the undue haste for oil exploration under the guise of any number of excuses from “oil security” to economic development. The hysteria and downright greed obscures all rational reasoning.

The examples are endless. From Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an African rainforest in Gabon, the last of the Pacific lowland rainforests in northwestern Ecuador, rainforests in Peru or the pristine upper Amazon, the Orinoco Delta Swamp Forests of northwestern Venezuela and northeastern Guyana.

These are only a smattering of the examples where the threat of degradation from oil exploration is present. What these pristine and ecologically diverse places have in common is their remoteness from our everyday life. They form the lungs of the planet and hold the potential for new discoveries in science and medicine, but are far enough away from our consciousness that we can avert away our gaze.

In fact it is only when the threat is close to home that our complacency is disturbed. Reading the Guardian today I came across the amazing report by John Vidal that oil exploration rights have been granted to an oil company to explore in a protected area of the Douth Downs. The Woodland Trust, in its condemnation described Markswell Wood as:

“Eleven hectares of ancient woodland within the beautiful Sussex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty. The council has given the go-ahead for the initial destruction of a hectare of ancient woodland, the richest habitat for species in the UK, the UK’s equivalent of rainforests.”

The excuse? “Council officers said that there was a “clear and overriding need” for oil exploration.” The Woodland Trust defined this disturbing panic for exploration as ” a worrying example of local government putting the search for money before safeguarding irreplaceable natural heritage.”

Vidal posits that the soaring price of oil, which last week reached a record £62 a barrel, has made the development of “micro” oilfields potentially viable. So folks, look out because an oil drilling venture may be coming to a neighbourhood near you. As long as there is a fast buck to be made, it seems our “energy security” requires it.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: A person stands underneath a natural arch in a glacier at Norsel Point, Anvers Island, Antarctica.

Ace arch of a glacier with man standing underneath.

Photograph by: Glenn Grant, National Science Foundation. Date Taken: July 30, 2006.

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Wednesday, 14 May, 2008.

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