Journey of the Job Search
I think for a lot of graduates, especially graduates who have studied a form of environmental science, leaving the bubble of empowerment, aspiration and total world domination to save the planet can be quite a shock to system, and for me, when I completed my studies, I’d lost my spark. I wasn’t sure where to look or where to begin.
After university, the daunting task of finding a job, figuring out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go while trying to keep pace with my friends making it in the ‘marine conservation’ field was intense. That period of time between trying to find what you’re going to do next, and when that next thing actually happens is a wild emotional rollercoaster. That, combined with our changing environment around us; Australian bushfires, extreme flooding, and severe drought across the globe, just to name a few, can all be quite vexing while you’re trying to find a way to get stuck in there and contribute.
We all know that we are experiencing an unprecedented rate of global warming through increased carbon emissions. These levels of CO2 have before recorded (in proxy records) in Earth history, just not at this rate and pace of increase, so the effects are unclear. There are many factors that influence and control long term carbon evolution, including chemical weathering, magmatism, volcanic and metamorphic degassing, and the burial of organic carbon (1). Carbon dioxide concentrations are rising at present mostly because of the fossil fuels that people are burning for energy. Fossil fuels like coal and oil contain carbon that plants pulled out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis over the span of many millions of years and now we are returning that carbon to the atmosphere in just a few hundred years (1) by extracting less than 700 million barrels of oil per year worldwide (2).
Because of these reasons, oil and gas companies get a lot of criticism, and at a time, they weren’t exactly my biggest fan either.
Just how Rome wasn’t built in a day, oil and gas is not going to be eradicated from our everyday lives tomorrow. Oil fuels the cars, lorries and planes that underpin modern economies and lifestyles. Gas fuels many industrial operations, including glass and steel foundries, aluminium or nickel smelters, and many manufacturing industries. It is also used in producing fertiliser and a wide range of industrial products, including plastics and polymers, textiles and paints and dyes. There will be some form of oil or gas in something we use everyday, and even though we can make the hydrogen powered bus or use solar panelled electricity, oil will still be extracted for many years to come. It’s a reality we will be dealing with for many years to come, and the impacts of man on the oceans will continue to be multiple and substantial.
‘Oil Spill Response’
So how did an ocean conservationist end up working for the oil and gas industry? Well, life took me on an unexpected turn and I somehow found myself working in oil spill response. If I’m honest I’d never heard of oil spill response before. I remember ‘Deepwater Horizon’ quite well with the oiled wildlife and pools of fire burning from the middle of the ocean. So my first thoughts of oil spills, like most peoples, is some what of a disaster. But I’ve learnt the way in which spills are handled and way they are managed are what makes whether a spill is a disaster or not … in other terms, oil spill response.
This field of work is vital. Training, simulated exercises and plans outlining the best response options for specific environments in certain conditions to oil and gas operators is one of the most effective ways to conserve the oceans. It’s all down to preparedness. It’s a way of mitigating our effects on the environment that I’d never thought of, and a way that is extremely effective.
With zero incident the ever-present goal, should an incident occur, the most rapid and effective response is what is generated though proven principles of oil spill preparedness and response. This is a topic within itself, but there are certain ways in which the environment is considered as a top priority, one example is NEBA, Net Environmental Benefit Analysis. This is a process that, with local engagement, identifies and prioritises a communities most critical environmental and social assets, to determine most effective oil spill response tools from the operator. It uses several different factors to identify these key areas, for example, ‘What presence of sensitive species are there?’ or ‘what is the proximity to sensitive shorelines?’. This process heavily takes into account sensitive environments and lessens the spill impacts on the marine environment with health and safety at the forefront, also predicting outcomes through previous spill history to (3).
Conservation has many different forms and I consider oil spill response very important and beneficial in conservation, because although oil and gas extraction and exploration is not ‘ethical’, someone will do always do this job as long as oil and gas are extracted. This way I can personally put as much effort into limited impacts of a spill to people and the ecosystems and environments near drilling platforms and pipelines as I possibly can. Now I’ve seen the other side of it, I understand its difficult to accept that oil is an issue that’s not going away anytime soon, but this way I can do the best with a realistic situation with concrete action and support.
So .. maybe working for the ‘enemy’ isn’t so bad after all, and maybe it’s the best way of protecting our oceans from turning the havoc we have imposed upon it, into disaster.
If you want find out more about oil soil preparedness and strategies used, IPIECA is the best place to look.
Oil Uses (1)
Oil Statistics (2)