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Ruptured coal ship + Leaking heavy fuel oil = Devastated reef April 5, 2010

Posted by Jill S. Schneiderman in coal, coral reefs, fossil fuel, Great Barrier Reef, oil, oil spill.

(Image from Australian Maritime Safety Authority / April 4, 2010)

In attempting to address the question of how humans should behave as actors in the system of environmental change, I’ve been thinking and writing about writer Rob Nixon’s concept, slow violence. To use Nixon’s words, slow violence is an oxymoron because acts of slow violence are those with lethal repercussions that sprawl across space and time. (For more on the concept read Nixon’s remarkable paper “Slow Violence, Gender and the Environmentalism of the Poor” in Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, 2007)

Nixon has said that it’s hard to get people to recognize slow violence because the effects are so much greater than the space and time of one human life time. He says we need graphic images that can serve as icons to motivate us to stop perpetrating such acts.

So, my vote for an icon of slow violence is the sad image above that was printed in the Los Angeles Times today. It shows the more than 700-foot long, Shen Neng 1 , carrying 65,000 tons of coal striking the Great Barrier Reef (note that coral reefs cover less than 1% of the world’s oceans) and leaking heavy fuel oil from the 300,000 gallons it carries to run its engines.