• Jeffrey Zalles

Off-Shore Roulette

On November 1, 2017, Tovaris Deloach, a 17-year-old Mississippi high school student decided to try his hand at Russian Roulette, a lethal game often employed as a method of torture, where one chamber in a revolver is loaded and the other five are empty. After spinning the barrel, the player puts the gun to his head and presses the trigger.

On his first try, Tovaris was lucky, and the chamber was empty. Perhaps believing himself infallible, he tried again. This time the chamber was full, and Tovaris died hours after the bullet entered his head.

Like many of my peers, my first exposure to Russian Roulette came in 1978 with the release of The Deer Hunter, an Academy Award winning movie about PTSD and the Viet Nam War. I remember wondering how someone could be so cavalier about their own life to risk it in a game with a one in six chance of certain death.

Now I find myself, together with the community I love, facing another form of Russian Roulette. There is no gun involved, but it is a game that will be played year in and year out. Where the odds of losing are greater than those faced by Tovaris Deloach or the fictional characters in The Deer Hunter. My life won’t be at risk, but the lifeblood and economic vitality of my community will be.

Our coast is being threatened by the possibility of off-shore oil drilling. Drilling that is supported by members of our legislature who count oil and chemical companies among their biggest donors. Drilling that is opposed by the boards of commissioners of every coastal North Carolina county with one exception; our own Brunswick County Commission.

There are currently 210 drilling rigs operating off the shores of the United States. Every year since 1969, there have been at least 44 major oil spills, defined as spills of 10,000 barrels or more. By extension, this means that there is better than a one in five chance of a major spill occurring at or around any one of those oil rigs in any given year. Put another way, over a decade, the odds of experiencing at least one major oil spill related to the operation of any off-shore oil rig are very close to certain.

Should we lose in this game of Russian Roulette, what would the consequences be? Our beaches would likely be severely damaged by tar. Our tourism industry, which generates about $500 million a year in revenues, would be decimated and the jobs it provides would disappear. Commercial and residential real estate values would plummet as vacancies skyrocketed. And all this for what? To create a handful of jobs that would likely be filled by oil industry professionals who would be relocated here? To pump more oil into a market that, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), is already facing oversupply? To save a penny on a gallon of gas?

I hope that none of us is foolish enough to pick up a gun and play Russian Roulette. I also hope that we, as a community, let our voices be heard and our votes be counted against those who support any proposal that could alter life as we know it here in Brunswick County.

Ghost written for

Tom Simmons, Candidate for North Carolina House of Representatives