From Harvard Ayers, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University:
Our beautiful North Carolina Atlantic coast is one of the most delicate and sensitive of coastal areas in the East. The Duke University Marine Lab at Beaufort is well-placed to study our entire coastline. But this area and its wild inhabitants are now threatened by President Obama’s plans to permit oil exploration and drilling. We have much better natural resources that would be no threat to the beauty and delicate resources of our coastal area.
First of all, about the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Doug Nowacek, an associate professor of Conservation Technology at the Lab, is concerned about the prospect of using a seismic exploration technique which involves firing air cannons as loud as howitzers and can be fired every ten seconds for periods that can last weeks.
Because whales have very sensitive ears and communicate by “vocalizing” sounds underwater that can travel long distances and be heard by other whales, these loud noises pose no less than an existential threat to these charismatic sea mammals.
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Due in part to these threats, over the last year or so, Dr. Nowacek told me that he and other lab scientists have placed audio recorders off of Oregon Inlet on the outer banks just above Hatteras Island. Their purpose is to record whale sounds in order to find out just how much the North Atlantic right whales use this area. Nowacek’s “listening” project at Oregon Inlet is already telling us some crucial things about its importance. He told me that some of these whales were found to spend up to 18 days in the area, and the project is just getting started.
It’s also important to look at the importance of North Carolina’s potential oil resource off-shore. Our state’s electric energy has been dominated by fossil-fuel generated power for 100 or more years, and now that we recognize these dirty fuels are killing people and threatening to cause climate catastrophe, it is time for a new plan.
While we have very little natural gas or oil on land in our state, we unfortunately have just enough oil off our pristine Outer Banks, which include national treasures such as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
But do we want cultural and national treasures like this to become another ruined tourist and sports/commercial fishing nightmare like the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida after the BP spill?
The area off the Outer Banks has an energy resource that is constantly renewable, non-polluting, and powerful and steady enough to produce most, if not all, North Carolina's electricity needs. This is, of course, our incredible wind resource. When paired with our booming solar industry – we are fourth in the country in existing solar power – we could lead the East Coast in home-grown energy for the rest of time while producing twice as many jobs as machine-intensive oil exploitation.
I urge those who would support oil exploitation off our coast to come into the real world of concern for oil spill nightmares and climate disasters. Our charismatic mega-fauna such as the North Atlantic right whale is so special. Let us tap our benign renewable energies and lead the country in partnering with nature to keep our state the beautiful, natural wonder that it is.