The Pemex Fire: Corporate Responsibility in Environmental Recovery

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By Quentin Choy

July 3, 2021

This week, a fire raged on the ocean surface in the Gulf of Mexico following an underwater gas pipe sparked the blaze. The pipe belonged to the Mexican company, Pemex, which controls he Mexican gas industry as a monopoly. Stunning images and videos spread online of the ocean’s surface literally burning as ships came to try to extinguish the flames.

WATCH: Pemex Fire Burns on Ocean Surface

The Pemex fire is just one of several ecological disasters in recent memory. The British Petroleum spill also known as Deepwater Horizon in 2010 spilled oil all across the Gulf of Mexico, damaging habitats and covering birds and marine life in oil and muck.

The Amazon rainforest fires in 2020 were a result of clearing of land by the soy and cattle industries, primarily by JBS, the world’s largest producer of beef and pork.

In the Niger delta along Africa’s west coast, oil spills from Shell and other companies over the years have destroyed the region is a habitat for both fish, wildlife, and Nigerians who lived along the coast. Many Nigerians have been forced to relocate from the region as freshwater has been contaminated, and fish have died off, no longer providing people with a source of food. Up to 80 percent of fishermen lost their livelihood as a result of the spills.

While companies responsible for the spills are usually the ones who pay for the damages, wildlife and communities pay as well, even if they weren’t involved. For example, the Nigerians who had to relocate from their communities had no responsibility in Shell’s oil spills, yet they had to pay for the damages by losing their homes and livelihoods.

A Nigerian man shows the damages to the environment and to his communities from the spills. Courtesy of Amnesty International.

This same example of people taking the brunt of environmental damage can be seen in discussions over climate change. Individuals are told by governments to limit their carbon footprints, drive electric vehicles, use metal or paper straws, and to use less water and electricity. While these actions are noble, governments tell individuals to do these things while simultaneously allowing corporations to emit toxins into the air, dump waste into streams and waterways, and to continue mining, deforestation, and consumption of vast amounts of fossil fuels.

Protests in Alaska following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Courtesy of Marion Owen.

The daily actions of these companies make far more a difference on climate change and on the environment than whether or not you decide to use a plastic or paper bag.

I think that the environmentalist movement should target their aim to corporations publicly rather than running campaigns on regulating people’s daily habits in terms of environmentalism. If most environmental problems come from corporations, most environmental regulation and campaigns should be directed toward these corporations causing the problems.

Decreasing water levels in Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam is at its lowest level. With less water in America’s largest reservoir, less water and electricity can be provided to southwestern states including Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and highly-populated California. These communities will feel the brunt of climate change as well as potential water and energy shortages in the coming years.

To put the importance of Lake Mead into perspective, 25 million people rely on the reservoir for water.

Dropping water levels in Lake Mead can be seen in the growing size of this island in the lake. Courtesy of Weather.com.

Efforts must be made to hold all corporations more accountable for ecological and environmental damages they cause. The worst impacts of climate change come from these corporations, and we as individuals are the ones who suffer. We as individuals need to rally and push the government to hold those who are damaging the planet to account.

Quentin Choy, creator of <em>WeTheCommoners Blog</em>
Quentin Choy, creator of WeTheCommoners Blog

Quentin is a student of Political Science. He became interested in history and politics in 2015 watching the Republican and Democratic primaries as well as the 2016 General Election.

He is from Hawaii and currently attends school in Colorado.

Image Courtesy of The Sun.

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