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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ecological Devastation and Me Or swimming in an oil spill

I am at the forefront of the ecological devastation of the world because of fossil fuels and I only realized it today. The religious holiday of Eid has passed, and my company gave me three days off. For those in the West who don't know, Eid marks the end of the month long fasting period of Ramadan, where in Muslim countries it is illegal to eat, drink, or smoke in public during the day. Private fornication is also forbidden during the day as well, which is the mark of a very holy period of time in my book.

To mark the holiday I went with some friends to Fujairah, a rural neighboring Emirate that is mostly rocky desert and beach. The beaches are not as nice as the ones in Dubai in terms of having lifeguards, no poor people, and lawn chairs with towels, but the snorkeling to be had is amazing. I saw a shark (predators almost always have frowns on their faces), sea tortoises eating in reefs, and many different fish. I also saw oil.

There are two types of oil spills. There are large oil spills that cover miles with goopy tar. These tend to be publicized. Then there are small, constant oil spills that come from underegulated off shore drilling. I saw the latter. The oil that comes from these drills and from the ships that carry the oil is not big and goopy, but small and black and in a hard shell form. They are tiny specks that if squeezed turn into real oil, and they stain your skin and make it sticky. I was only yesterday in the water, and after two showers I still have some oil on my feet. It is disgusting stuff and it made my eyes and throat burn.

I can't imagine what it does to things that depend on the sea to live, but I would imagine that it isn't good. The oil comes in waves, depending on the tidal times. It leaves streaks across the dark brown sand, and these streaks look like little black pebbles. They're not of course, because when you step on them, the weight of your body turns them back into oil. Everyone who has done basic science in school knows that oil and water don't mix, so I would think it is going to be quite difficult for all that oil to be turned back into water. Or at least it's going to take a lot of human and animal contact to absorb the poison.

But it's the stuff that makes my car go in the morning and the evening, and it is what has allowed me to come to work today and write this blog entry (I don't have internet access at home). So maybe the devastation of the gateway of the Arabian Gulf to the Indian Ocean through the Gulf of Oman was worth it.

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