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A Dangerous Return

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Artwork by Alyssa Paek, staff artist

On May 29, a 5-million-gallon diesel fuel spill occurred near Norilsk, Russia due to a power station storage tank of Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company. Nornickel, its parent company, reported that the cause of the spill may have been the sinking foundation of the station as a result of thawing permafrost in the midst of the climate change crisis (Reddy, 2020). Labelled as one of the worst oil spills ever, the Arctic spill caused nearby rivers to turn a crimson red color (Odynova, 2020).

President Putin of Russia has declared the issue to be in a state of emergency. Diesel oil is less viscous, so it is harder to contain and causes significantly lasting damage. Researchers are reminded of a similar spill in Massachusetts in September 1969, which needed five years for marsh grasses to grow back while its effects continue to appear decades later. In addition to this destruction, the Arctic is an unknown territory due to its harsh weather and limited access through ports and airports. It will prove to be more difficult to provide the assistance in recovering the spill (Reddy, 2020). Vasily Yablokov, a professional with Greenpeace Russia has claimed: “It's a disaster of global scale — one of the worst that occurred in the Arctic” (Odynova, 2020).

Oil spills are detrimental, toxic, and fuel multiple repercussions, placing many organisms at risk. Animals and plants are also vulnerable to poisoning due to excessive ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of the oil. Marine mammals, especially, are placed at risk for damaged lungs and airways, while sea turtles fear contamination of their nesting sites. Sea birds are at risk of drowning with an increased weight due to oil coverings. As the oil damages birds’ wings, they have a harder time flying and an increased likelihood to suffer from hypothermia. The diesel also leaves its footprint within the environment by harming coral reefs and seagrasses, and soaking into the beach sand, exposing humans to dangers as well (“Oils (hydrocarbons),” n.d.).

This is a critical accident that needs global attention, and is a huge indicator that we need to redirect our concern and care for our Earth. In the midst of coronavirus quarantine, we were relieved to see signs of clearer and cleaner air. However, as we start to reopen, there are grave consequences to our escape from isolation and social distancing. Just as we thought we were recovering in our perilous fight against human-induced acceleration of global warming, once again, humanity has failed to protect its environment.

The need to cure and protect Mother Earth grows stronger. Yet, we continue to ignore this plea and many other demands in the current fights for security against coronavirus and equal rights - all struggles concerning the basic human rights for happiness, health, and equality. As we get a strong taste of our own faults in the harsh reality, people need to realize the harm we inflict on our own planet and own society with our mere presence, as we head into a dangerous return of pollution, climate change, and environmental harm.


Odynova, A. (2020, June 4). Putin declares state of emergency after massive fuel leak pollutes river in the Arctic circle. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from

Oils (hydrocarbons). (n.d.). UN Environment. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from

Reddy, C. (2020, June 9). A dangerous leak of diesel fuel in the Arctic. CNN. Retrieved June 26, 2020, from

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Izzy Burgess
Izzy Burgess
15 Ağu 2020

Thank you!!! So informative, and your title is so fitting. I wasn't even aware that this spill happened, so your article is so educational for me.

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