23 June 2010

Stop calling the Gulf catastrophe an oil SPILL

There is now a website called ThisIsNotASpill.org, whose goal is "to change the framing used to talk about the BP explosion in the Gulf of Mexico."  I agree with their view...

This is not a spill.

A spill is what happens when your toddler knocks over a tumbler of milk.

A spill is what happens when you turn over that bucket of soapy water while washing your car. It’s not what happens when you leave the water hose running for days. Or weeks. Or months.

A spill is what happens when a fixed quantity of fluid accidentally escapes its container.

Connotatively, spills are small.

The BP blowout is neither small nor fixed in quantity. Nor is the oil encased in a container, unless you think of the earth as a container. And by that definition, a volcanic eruption could be considered a spill!

There is a more precise noun that describes what is going on almost a mile below the surface of the ocean, 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana: blowout.

A blowout, in the words of the OilGasGlossary, is “an uncontrolled flow of gas, oil, or other well fluids.” To substantiate my claim that we should be using “blowout” not “spill” to describe this disaster, recall that the exploratory well blowout preventer, “a large valve that can seal off an oil or natural gas well,” failed. Blowout preventer failure = blowout.

This is not a spill.

It is a blowout.

And the sooner that the media begin using the true name to describe this disaster, instead of an innocuous euphemism, the more likely the enormity of the event — and what it means for our seemingly insatiable demand for energy — will permeate our collective conscious.
The site encourages bloggers to spread this message.

Photo from the TED Blog, which has a set of aerial photos of the disaster.


  1. I agree. The utilitarian yet morbid site dailydeadbirds.com says 'Days Since Spill' as if it was a solitary event, rather than an ongoing leak.

  2. Spill is a euphemism for the gusher of oil being released by the BP catastrophe. I can't imagine the news media using such a puny euphemism when they could be milking this event for much more than they are. This is not like them. I would expect them to over emphasize the situation like they usually do. I wonder what is behind this behavior.


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