This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, an environmental catastrophe that devastated the Prince William Sound. In honor of Earth Day, it’s fitting to look at news coverage of the spill that impacted the lives of countless Alaskans.
Another oil spill prompted the very first Earth Day. In January of 1969, off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, an oil well exploded, which sent hundreds of gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean. Images of oiled birds and the mounting cleanup efforts prompted the country to reexamine the relationship between humans and the environment.
Twenty years later, history repeated itself with an oil spill of another kind. On the evening of Thursday March 23, 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil tanker crashed into Bligh Reef in the Prince William Sound near Valdez. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil spilled into the waters and left a trail of dead sea life, lost fishing profits, and a threat to the ways of life for thousands of Alaska Natives.
Image credit: From the March 24, 1989 issue of the Valdez Vanguard, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.
Image credit: From the August 23, 1989 issue of the Valdez Vanguard, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.
Image credit: From the March 26, 1989 issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.
Image credit: From the June 14, 1994 issue of the Anchorage Daily News, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.
Image credit: From the April 5, 1989 issue of the Valdez Vanguard, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.
When we think back on Earth Day, it’s hard not to consider the lasting impacts of pollution. Yet actions in our daily lives affect changes to the planet. Our dependence on fossil fuels has helped accelerate climate change through carbon emissions, which has affected global temperature changes. Fortunately, there are small changes we can make to use less, recycle more, and to increase sustainability.
Image credit: Infographic courtesy of NOAA.
To ensure the lasting health of the planet, every day is Earth Day.
Be sure to check out the online exhibit on display right now at the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum. For more information on the research and records collected by the Alaska State Archives and Historical Collections, take a look at this interview with archivist Chris Hieb.