The scale of the pollution is mind-boggling. The government's national oil spill detection and response agency (Nosdra) says that between 1976 and 1996 alone, more than 2.4m barrels contaminated the environment. "Oil spills and the dumping of oil into waterways has been extensive, often poisoning drinking water and destroying vegetation. These incidents have become common due to the lack of laws and enforcement measures within the existing political regime," said a spokesman for Nosdra.
That's the government agency acknowledging that over twenty years, Nigeria suffered the equivalent of over nine Exxon Valdez-sized spills. (The Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons, or over 257,000 barrels. One barrel of crude oil is 42 gallons.)
For reference, according to the New York Times, the U.S. government estimate of oil spilled in the Gulf incident is anywhere between 37 million gallons (about 881,000 barrels) and 105.5 million gallons (over 2.5 million barrels) as of 20 June 2010.
Here's where you and I come in:
With 606 oilfields, the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports and is the world capital of oil pollution.
40% of U.S. crude oil is supplied by a country being devastated, environmentally and politically, by the pursuit of that oil.
We have got to reduce our crude oil consumption. We need more fuel-efficient vehicles. We need alternatives to fossil fuels to supply our current vehicle fleet, and long-term, we need vehicles that don't burn fossil fuels at all. We need an energy grid whose inputs are sustainable and home-grown: wind, water, solar, and everything else a national Manhattan Project-scale R&D push can devise.
And if you haven't thought long and hard about how to reduce your driving, and your electricity usage (how do you think a lot of that electricity is generated?), it's past time to start -- and then to make the changes you can.