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BP Oil Spill – If it Was My Home

The If It Was My Home website has made it easy to get some grasp of scale of the BP Oil tragedy. Simply head to the above link, enter your city, and cover your region with the gulf spill.

Now, for good measure, we just need the program to add in the gulf’s hypoxic zone – a 6,000 square mile oxygen-starved dead zone largely caused by excess nitrogen runoff (fertilisers and livestock waste) flowing into the Mississippi basin from U.S. farmers/agribusinesses lining the Mississippi watershed. (The resulting algae blooms and die offs consumes all the oxygen, until there is little to no life in large parts of the ocean water affected – a recent study counted more than 400 such dead zones worldwide.)

I’ve heard a few anti-environmentalists in the past try to tell me it’s impossible for man to damage the earth, as it’s "just too big, and we’re too small". Oh how I wish they weren’t sooo wrong.

Hypoxic, or ‘dead zone’, along the Louisiana coastline


  1. Great idea, I hope they do expand it to cover other things. One thing I tried to do a while ago was to estimate the number of exhaust pipes active at any given time in the world and then present it as a single exhaust pipe. But I couldn’t really estimate the size. Would be pretty big though.

  2. Andy,

    And here we go… My guesstimations are not overly accurate, and may well be off by a factor 2 – but they won’t be off by more than a factor 10. And if you do a bit of research, you should be able to refine the numbers. I like to work in kg of carbon, but here we may equally well stick to liters of oil.

    At the moment, we burn about 80 million barrels of oil per day, round half of which will be for transportation purposes. That’s 160 liters/barrel * 0.9 kg/liter * 80 million liters/day * 1/2 = 5.76*10^9 kg of oil/day. (Oil is 6/7 carbon, hence that’s about 5*10^9 kg of C per day.)

    Now, a typical European car burns 8 liters of petrol per 100 km when going at 80 km/h. That’s 6.4 liters per hour, or about 5.8 kg of carbon/hour. If we take this to be our “standard candle”, then our daily 5*10^9 kg carbon will manage to keep about 36 million such standard candles burning all the time.

    What’s the diameter of an exhaust pipe? Maybe 5 cm? Area goes with the square of the diameter, so our 36 million standard candles that keep on burning correspond to a pipe of about 300 meters(!) in diameter.

    And we should also keep in mind the speed with which this moloch spews exhaust gases. 5.8 kg of C is about 500 mols; every standard candle burn this in an hour, hence produces 0.13 mols of CO2 per second. A mol normally is 22.4 liters, but exhaust gases are much hotter than air, so let’s assume twice that volume. That’s about six liters of gas per second. This is emitted over an exhaust area of 0.002 m^2, hence at a velocity of about 3 m/s, or 11 km/h (roughly 7 mph).

    So, we’ve got a hole that is 300 meters in diameter which spews CO2 so fast that in about 45 minutes, it fills with 100% CO2 a volume that is equivalent to all the air in the cylinder above it.

    Could anyone please cross-check?

  3. The whole Baltic Sea is now a hypoxic zone, with the run off from agriculture in addition to all the toxins from industry. In summer it’s all more or less covered by toxin algea. In addition, because of EU rules more than half the catch of cod fish the fishermen have to trow back in the Baltic Sea as dead fish. Here in Norway all fish has to be brought back to shore fore registration, even the fish too small. In EU the rules force the fishermen in the Baltic Sea to trow more than half of the catch back in the sea, rottening on the oceans floor. This is more than stupid!

    But also here in Norway things more than stupid take place. I overheared a conversation on my travel in Lofoten a man telling how the fisheries in the fjord where he grew up was destroyed. One day two trawlers came to his fjord, putting a big steel wire between their trawlers, then triving along the whole fjord cutting down all the corall reefs along his fjord. They did this to make it easier for them using their bottom trawling equipment, because the corall reefs hindered them. After this the fisheries in his fjord was destroyed forewer, it never mecame the same. How stupidly greedy can men be?!?

    Still the Norwegian governments wants to risk what is left of our deep sea corall reefs, some of the largest deep sea corall reefs are to be found around Lofoten, where our governments wants to drill for oil!!!! The oil companies have become even more agressive in their manipulating with peoples mind now after the catastroph in the Gulf of Mexico, using millions of dollars on campains with big inlets in the newspapers etc. for why we must drill for oil in Lofoten. Because of the cold climate an oil catastrophe will be much worse here, because in the Gulf of Mecico much of the oil spill evaporate because of the heat.

    Lofoten is essential for the health of the two biggest fisheries left in Europe, because the cod fish of the Barents Sea sponge here, the largest cod fish tribe in the world. And also the North Atlantic herring grew up in this area, I think the largest fisheries resource in Europe and one of the most important in the world.

    I were out to some of the birds mountains in Lofoten, and it was spectacular, with hundreds of thousands puffins (sea parrots with the colourfull beak) and other sea birds on which I don’t know their English names, flying around me. It was like being in a mosquito swarm or in the middle of an documentary from BBC. But it was an illusion, because later that day I learned that why all these puffins were out on the ocean was because there were not enough food. If there were enogh food half would be nesteling, and one fourth would sit up in the birds mountains resting with their bellies full. This year, like last year, there would probably not be born any new puffin chickens. Because the herring offspring did not appear in time, in addition to that the small tobis fish is owerfished to feed the salmon in the salmon farms. Luckily puffins can live for 25-30 years, and will hopefully be more lucky another time.

    After the herring was fished down and recovered, it didn’t continue the old habbits of their ancestors about where and when to spounge, it was like their collective memory for thousend of years was destroyed after they were fished down. So their spounging does not syncronice with the nesting of the sea birds anymore, just from time to time. The balance of nature is destroyed by man, and the puffin pays the price.

    One more thing, at the north side of Lofoten there is a lot of plastic garbage, coming up with the Golf Current and then blowing down to the north side of Lofoten by the northern winds.

    Please help to save Lofoten from the oil companies! This is not just a matter for Norway, but for whole Europe and the rest of the world!!!

    By the way, I met a group from Australia spending their holidays in Lofoten for surfing. For me I think I rather should go to Australia for surfing, it seemed rather cold to me.

  4. Thomas and Øyvind, wow, most people’s response to this kind of thing is to just turn their ears off. Permaculture seems to be spreading rapidly, but it’s still very small compared to everything else. How can we get people to look at reality and face it? They might take solutions more seriously if they really understand the problems, then we wouldn’t be hearing things like, oh, sorry I’m too busy to get involved in this project much, I have to sort out my career…

    The main obstacle to saving ourselves I think is our obsession with concentrating on the positive. That’s just as unbalanced as concentrating on the negative.

    The world is being run by a bunch of psychopaths and unless we realize we have to stop voting for _any_ of the present managers, or anyone who even resembles them, we won’t get anywhere useful.

    It’s time to stop expecting someone to look after our interests for us, and start taking responsibility for ourselves. To reclaim our personal sovereignty and act without regard for ‘authorities’.

    The only ‘authority’ on this planet is wild nature, zone 5, all else is human arrogance, our individual power aggregated and channeled into a few individuals who should never be expected to do anything other than go mad. Don’t wait for the others, don’t wait for a leader, start taking your bit back now. You can solve all the world’s problems in a garden.

    Re the exhaust pipe, just to get an idea of the scale I worked it out differently (though a lot less efficiently) by assuming a huge underestimate of 240 million cars in the world, and assuming they are driven one hour each day. That would be one million times 2 cm exhaust pipes, square root of 2m = 1414 so the exhast pipe would be about 14 km wide.

    But maths was never my strong point, it’s probably a lot bigger.

  5. Erm… Andy, 2 cm radius x 1400 = 200 cm x 14 = 28 meters, not 14 kilometers. You are wrong by 3 orders of magnitude.

  6. Thomas I defer to your better Math abilities, yet still I find it hard to believe that a million exhaust pipes would fit in 28 meters circle. Such is my limited mind!

    I guess that’s why people put things in straight lines when they do these illustrations. Thanks.

  7. I now learned that the deep water corall reefs outside Lofoten actualy are the biggest known in the world today, not some of the biggest, but the biggest.

    Also I learned that the North Atlantic herring, which grow up in the Lofoten area and every autumn spend some months in this area, not is some of the biggest fisheries today, but the biggest amount of fish measured in cubic metres in the whole world.

    And the cod fish of the Barents Sea that spounge in Lofoten every winter, is the biggest and most healthy of the cod fisheries in the world.

    And I also learned that the bird mountains of Lofoten some years ago were the most numerous in Europe until the decline started, but still only outnumberd by some of the bird mountains of Island.

    So to drill here for oil is probably the most hazardious place to drill for oil in the whole world. It’s just too much at stake!!!!

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