Activist Riki Ott Speaks on the Dangers of Fossil Fuel Dependence

Activist Riki Ott Speaks on the Dangers of Fossil Fuel Dependence

October 26, 2011

Environmental Activist Riki Ott spoke to the Lasell community earlier this week about what she believes are the hidden costs of fossil fuels and ways in which our government and environment are connected.

Ott, a marine biologist and author, gave her talk to an interested group of students, faculty and staff on October 25.

"Sustainability and democracy are entwined; you can't have one without the other," she said.

Born into an activist family, Ott grew up with an interest in science. But, her interest in the country's oil dependence stemmed from her 10-year fishing career that ended with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Like countless others, Ott's livelihood was in jeopardy and, according to Ott, Exxon did little to help. While Exxon remains one of the most profitable corporations in the nation, it has refused to provide financial support to victims of the spill, she added.

"The spill was the worst disaster of our time," she said.

Ott explained that the oil from the Alaska spill became buried after the clean up, affecting all types of wildlife, which are still being born with deformities today. According to Ott, the herring population on the west coast of Alaska has never recovered from the environmental disaster. In addition to wildlife, sickness and death related to the spill continue to affect the residents of Alaska's west coast, including those who helped in the clean up.

In 2010, Ott became a key player in the clean-up and activism following the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, offering her experience to help resident there cope with the disaster.

Today, while the U.S. government reports that the spill has been cleaned up, Ott argues that the residents and visitors of the Gulf Coast continue to be sick. Ott reports that the oil has bonded with the sand and is undetectable to the naked eye. In addition, like the Exxon spill aftermath, wildlife deformities and human sickness prove that the spill and the chemicals used to clean it will have lasting harmful effects on the area, she added.

Beyond the physical and environmental costs of these disasters, the mental health of the residents has also been affected; Ott cited higher rates of divorce and suicide in both Alaska and the Gulf in her talk.

Ott also focused on the need to reclaim political power from large, mainly oil, corporations.

She outlined the influence oil companies have on politicians and on the U.S. government in general and discussed the need to break these ties as politicians place the oil companies' desires over the well being of the American people.

She also encouraged Lasell students to take part in group movements such as Occupy Boston to learn what they can do to improve and change the world they live in.

Ott is the author of three books, Not One Drop, Sound Truth and Corporate Myths and Alaska's Copper River Delta.

- By Amanda Comeau