Oil spill highlights need for common sense, purpose

Posted: Tuesday, January 30, 2001

An oil spill in waters just half a mile off one of the world's great bird sanctuaries, the Galapagos Islands, raises questions about how to safeguard waters of special scientific interest.

These islands administered by Ecuador are where Charles Darwin developed his theories of natural selection in 1835; the land mass has been made a national park to protect the 5,000 species of bird and beast, nearly half of them unique to the islands ...

Yet, while the islands themselves are sensitively protected, (the Jan. 19) accident shows that the waters around them are vulnerable.

One sensible way to extend protection to the seas has come from the World Wide Fund for Nature. It wants the Ecuadorean government and shippers to designate the Galapagos as a ''particularly sensitive sea area'' (PSSA). A PSSA would simply give Ecuador more clout than international law usually allows coastal states to impose good practice on passing ships.

The PSSA is a recent invention. Only two exist, one around Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the other off Cuba; their effectiveness is not yet proven. ... Yet it is time to restore common sense in the risky business of commercial shipping; though imperfect, a PSSA would be a good start.

--The (London) Times

Jan. 23

From this environmental disaster we can move in one direction only: designating resources to the protection of the environment at both a national and international level, with direct intervention and a system of incentives. Only in this way will we have cleaner air, less polluted water, "sane" cows and safe turtles.

To do this, the citizens of wealthy countries must decide how much more they are willing to spend to safeguard ''natural paradises,'' both near and far. Without this willingness to make sacrifices, all the ecological discussions and initiatives risk becoming a form of hypocrisy.

Each new governmental program should therefore consider furthering expenditure on the protection of the environment. Otherwise, for the iguanas and turtles of the Galapagos, we will have spent only a lot of hot air.

--La Stampa, Turin, Italy

Jan. 24

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