Humans Are to Blame for These Environmental Disasters

Humans have changed the environment drastically, especially in the last century. As our population has grown, so has our effect on our natural world. Much of that impact has, unfortunately, been negative.

Since our population has begun booming, we’ve made gradual changes to the environment — as well as caused some large, environmental disasters that have caused acute harm both to the environment and human health.

An environmental disaster is an event caused by human activity that’s damaging to the environment. This differentiates it from a natural disaster, which occurs due to natural processes.

Our planet and humankind have seen many environmental disasters in the recent past, but a few stand out as especially costly in terms of money, environmental damage and human health impacts. Here are five of the most catastrophic.

  1. The Dust Bowl

The dust bowl, which occurred in the 1930s in the Southern Plains of the United States, is a well-known environmental disaster. Drought, coupled with rapidly expanding poor agricultural practices, caused dust storms that ripped away the fertile soil of the semi-arid region and created “black blizzards” that reached heights of up to 10,000 feet in the air.

The event made the region virtually uninhabitable and worsened the economic difficulties of the Great Depression. It also inspired lawmakers to pass bills promoting responsible farming practices. It was years before rain finally returned to the region, eventually restoring the plains.

  1. Chernobyl

The Chernobyl disaster is infamous as the most devastating event involving a nuclear power plant in the planet’s history. In 1986, one of the reactors at Chernobyl in Ukraine exploded, spewing huge amounts of radiation into the air.

The explosion itself killed two workers, and more died in the hours following the event. Twenty-eight workers died in the next four months, as did many emergency responders. The radiation may have caused an increase in instances of thyroid cancer in the region.

The radiation also killed all the trees in the area, and the site is still largely off-limits due to fears about the impacts of lingering radiation.

  1. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

When oil spills from a tanker, pipeline or other source, it can harm wildlife and ecosystems and contaminate groundwater and soil, as well as impact human health. The destruction of plant life associated with oil spills can increase erosion by as much as four times the normal amount.

One of the most infamous oil spills occurred in 1989 in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. An oil tanker, called Exxon Valdez, hit a reef that tore open the hull and allowed 11 million gallons of crude oil to spill into the water. The leak killed an estimated 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 otters and 300 harbor seals. You can still find oil under beaches near the location of the accident.

  1. London Smog

Smog is a common occurrence in cities around the world, but in 1952 in London, it reached unheard-of levels of severity. For five days, a heavy fog merged with sulfurous fumes from coal fires, power plants and vehicle exhaust.

The incident killed around 12,000 people, hospitalized 150,000 and killed thousands of animals. To this day, it remains one of the largest air pollution events in history. It led to the eventual creation of the UK’s Clean Air Act of 1956, which limited the use of coal in cities.

  1. The Bhopal Disaster

Industry makes our modern life possible, but also comes with environmental risks. In 1984 in Bhopal, India, the worst industrial disaster of all time killed approximately 25,000 people.

On Dec. 2, a chemical plant began leaking a deadly gas known as methyl isocyanate (MIC). Safety systems were not functioning properly, so 27 tons of the gas spread throughout the city.

Many thousands of people died within the next few days of respiratory failure, cardiac arrest and other health problems. The disaster also killed many animals and plants in the area and contaminated the groundwater. Toxic elements still remain at the site today due to improper cleanup.

These environmental disasters had a devastating impact on their local environments, animals and people, and may have also contributed to global issues. As we move forward, we must strive to learn more about our natural world and do our best to protect it.

How This Hurricane Season Is Affecting U.S. Oil

Just when it seemed U.S. oil couldn’t be stopped, hurricane season 2017 arrived to rain on parade. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association predicts 2017 will bring 11 to 17 tropical storms and up to four massive hurricanes between June and December.

For offshore oil platforms, signs of a nasty season mean it’s time to baton down the proverbial hatches. When weather forecasters predict conditions like this seasons, all non-essential personnel are evacuated from platforms to ensure their safety. While this is a drill that rig operators have been through in the past, every storm is different, and you can’t be too prepared for the chaos a hurricane can bring.

Preparing for the Storm

Making an offshore rig ready to sustain a hurricane is a delicate balancing act between protecting the employees who work on the platform and safeguarding as much oil production as possible.

The very real impacts that hurricane season can have on production make every last operating hour crucial, so personnel essential to rig operation are allowed to remain aboard until a few days before the storm. Sometimes it can be less than a day, but well-trained crews know how to stay professional even under pressure because failure could mean a natural disaster.

Within a few day of the storms arrival, drilling stops and all personnel are evacuated. Drill ships that are in the potential path of the storm are relocated to safe waters. The unpredictable nature of storms makes it necessary to stop operations even outside of the direct path of the hurricane.

Technology is the biggest asset oil manufacturers have in the fight against storms like Harvey, Irma and Jose. Modern oil rigs are equipped with GPS systems that allow supervisory staff to monitor their positions during and after the storm and locate them should the rig be pulled away from its drilling location by storm surges.

Restarting Operations

This year’s flurry of storms poses a grave threat to America’s prominent position in the global oil market because of its impact on multiple critical areas for US oil production. Hurricane Harvey struck Texas’ gulf coast, which is home to 45 percent of American refining capacity.

Add to that the offshore operations in the Gulf, which account for 17 percent of crude oil production, and now the rigs struck by Irma and Jose, and you have the makings of a disaster.

Once again, technology will be essential in restoring production capacity as quickly as possible. Many offshore rigs are designed around lean manufacturing principles. Assuming they can endure the winds and waves, that should help get oil production on its feet as quickly as possible.

Lean manufacturing practices focus on reducing waste in the form of motion, downtime, over-processing and four other potential inefficiencies. By allowing an oil rig to continue producing up to days before a storm hits, and restart operations with minimal crew, these practices can help recover days of production time.

Assessing Damage

No amount of preparation can guarantee that sensitive equipment won’t be damaged in the course of a storm, which is why drilling companies practice special flyover and assessment procedures to determine if offshore sites are safe to send personnel back to following a massive storm.

Remobilization, or “re-mob” as it’s called, is the process of gathering all company assets and ensuring they’re safe to continue work before beginning drilling operations again. Following an assessment by helicopter, small teams are dispatched to rigs and ships to determine if everything is in working order.

The ability to track every single asset using GPS makes the process of finding ships and platforms simpler than it was in the past, but the real challenge comes in repairing damaged equipment after a storm. It can take days or weeks to repair complex extraction equipment with crews sometimes working round-the-clock to get a significant drilling facility back online.

Ultimately, the small teams can bring rigs and ships back online. Once operational, assets can begin receiving more personnel. It’s a race against the clock every time, and this year it looks like those assessment crews are going to get more than their fair share of practice.

How to Help Nature Recover from a Wildfire


Wildfires are often associated with destruction. It wipes out homes, wildlife habitat, and of course trees. Areas that are damaged to that extent take time to regrow. Also, all that burning has another side effect. It releases a burst of greenhouse gasses into the air. The smoke and ash from the fire can make it difficult to breathe, especially for those prone to respiratory problems like asthma.

It goes without saying that property damage is an issue with wildfires. As long as people have enough warning, there should be no casualties. However, as climate change continues to make weather increasingly severe, human safety becomes less reliable.

However, one of the main issues comes from the lack of vegetation. After intense wildfires, there is a risk of soil erosion. If the fire is small, it may not be a big deal, but for fires that burn thousands of acres can pose serious hazards.

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