An oil spill is the unintentional release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment as a result of human activity. Oil can refer to many different materials, including crude oil, refined petroleum products (such as gasoline or diesel fuel) or by-products, ships' bunkers, oily refuse, or oil mixed in waste. Most man-made oil pollution comes from land-based activity, but the term often refers to the release of oil into the ocean or coastal waters. Public attention and subsequent regulation has tended to focus mainly on seagoing oil tankers.
Petroleum-based hydrocarbons can negatively impact marine life and seabirds even at low concentrations. Oil that is denser than water settles on and penetrates the seabed, and it may take months or even years to clean up. Some methods to clean up an oil spill include the use of bioremediation, dispersants, dredging, and skimming.
From a Unification perspective, several points can be made:
- Although oil is a useful commodity, oil spills can be toxic and can persist in the environment. Those who handle and transport large amounts of oil need training to take extra precautions to prevent oil spills. They need to think of the bigger picture of where the oil will end up and what effects it will have on living systems and on the environment as a whole.
- Even one accidental spill can have a negative impact on living organisms and the quality of the environment. This shows that everything in the environment is interrelated to make up a large ecosystem. We too are connected to one another and to our environment.
- The efforts to study and clean up oil spills indicate our willingness to take responsibility to minimize pollution and preserve the health of the environment as much as possible. In this manner, we are beginning to realize that the natural environment is not equipped to automatically or magically clean itself up, especially in relation to non-biodegradable materials, and that we have to be responsible for the adverse effects of what we produce.
- By keeping our environment clean and healthy, we allow God's love to flow through us to the rest of creation. In this manner, we can fulfill the blessing of exerting stewardship of love over the natural world.