World Animal Day 2011 And The Environment

It’s October 4th and it’s hard to believe that the year has come around again and it is World Animal Day today.

A year ago I asked What is there to celebrate on World Animal Day?

I said that the short answer was that there was lots to celebrate – even in a world troubled by declining species. Forgive me now if I write that a year on, the same concerns about the state of the environment exist.

Quillcards World Animal Day 4th October 2011 with Green-winged macaw

Deepwater Horizon

2010 was a rocky road, with the explosion on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf Of Mexico on April 20th 2010.

According to the National Resources Defence Council, in the 87 days that the broken pipe was spewing oil, it released between 150 and 190 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

The explosion was probably caused by a build-up of methane that was not properly controlled by the blowout preventer and the pipe stabilisers. The arguments are still going on about whether it was faulty design, failure to control the setting of the cement seals, or something else.

According to Sarah Chasis, Senior Attorney at the NRDC, the 6,000 dead birds, 600 sea turtle carcasses, and 100 marine mammal carcasses represent a tiny percentage of the numbers killed by the spill.

Fukushima Nuclear Plant

On March 11, 2011 the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was damaged by a tsunami following an earthquake off the coast of Japan. Engineers are still working on containing the radiation at the site.

The accident happened because no one had envisioned a tsunami of the height of the one of March 11. It knocked out the mains power supply and the back-up generator that powered the pump that should have circulated cooling water around the reactor vessels.

When the power failed, the cooling system failed and the reactor overheated.

Unlike newer reactor designs, there are dozens of holes built into the bottom of the reactor vessels at Fukushima.

The holes are there to allow graphite control rods to slide into the reactor to slow down the reactor. However, the rods melted under the intense heat and this allowed radioactive water to escape via the broken pipework around the reactor.

The accident happened because no one envisioned the series of events that would lead to the rods melting.

Had the designers envisioned this, they would not have put the holes at the bottom of the reactor vessels where liquid could simply run out and contaminate the environment.


The environmental damage caused by the Fukushima radiation leak is measured in part by the political decisions which result from it, including the choice of alternative fuel sources.

Tar Sands In Canada

One huge environmental concern is the extraction of bitumen or gas trapped in rock deep underground. Releasing these by fracking involves pumping huge quantities of steam and chemicals underground to break up the rock and release the material so it can be pumped to the surface.

The environmental cost of the degradation of the immediate environment is only one aspect of the cost of extraction. Contamination of water sources and the impact on animal life is a much more insidious danger.

The Keystone Pipeline is designed to carry synthetic crude oil from the Athabasca Tar Sands in northeastern Alberta in Canada to refineries in the United States – even as far as the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Tarnished Earth

The Cooperative Society’s Tarnished Earth project is a dramatic street gallery of photographs by Jiri Rezac telling the story of Canada’s tar sands.

The gallery was on tour in Leeds some months ago and the photographs tell a chilling tale of what can happen when people fail to look at environmental consequences.

Endangered Species Coalition

The Endangered Species Coalition is preparing a new report highlighting the impacts of fossil fuel extraction and transportation on protected species.

Gas Fracking In England

For those of us living in England it is easy to think that the tar sands of Canada are someone else’s problem. However, the Department of Energy and Climate Change reports that North Sea gas production is down 25% from a year ago.

It is hard not to see the groundwork being laid for a plan to exploit Britain’s own equivalent of the Canadian tar sands with the recent find of huge reserves of shale gas in north-west England that would be extracted by fracking.