How the Ocean Set Fire

As we scan through our social media feeds, it is clear that environmental issues are becoming an inevitable crisis. Every day, our environment faces many problems, many of which appear to be posing more risk over time, bringing us closer to a real emergency. As the current generation, it is becoming increasingly vital to promote awareness of these issues and reduce their negative impacts.

If you are caught up on what’s been happening around the world, you would know that on Friday, July 2nd, the ocean was literally “ablaze” in the Gulf of Mexico. A gas leak broke out from an underwater pipeline, managed by Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, causing a ring of fire to churn on the ocean’s surface at 5:15 am local time. This pipeline connects to a platform at Pemex’s flagship, Ku Maloob Zaap oil development, which is the country’s most important. Images of the bright orange flames, resembling molten lava, quickly filled up all social media feeds, along with pictures of ships trying to put out the fire with water and nitrogen. People also called out its resemblance to the Eye of Sauron, known from the ever so popular The Lord of the Rings. Dubbed as the “Eye of Fire” due to its circular shape, the fire took more than a whopping five hours to put out, finally ending at 10:30 am local time.

Pemex has stated that there was “no oil spill and the immediate action taken to control the surface fire avoided environmental damage.” Having said so, the company is investigating the cause of this leak. This incident comes as an inevitability, resulting from relying on underwater fossil fuel pipelines inherently, jeopardizing ocean life and everything else that depends on it.

Why are pipelines present underwater in the first place?

Natural gas and crude oil can be found in deposits under the sea bed, and because the fossil fuel deposits can be found offshore, deep under the ocean floor, there are offshore drilling rigs. Pipelines funnel fossil fuels from drilling platforms to onshore facilities on land, where the crude material is refined and shipped. This industrial exploitation began in 1897, but in the 21st century, drilling has moved further into the ocean, threatening different kinds of marine wildlife. The drilling discharges affect ocean biodiversity, and the pipelines pose a threat to the survival of coral reefs. 

This “Eye of Fire” has gained local and international criticism. Greenpeace Mexico, a branch of the non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over 55 countries, accused Pemex of causing “ecocide” in the Gulf of Mexico, citing the toxic properties and climate impact of methane gas. It blamed the rupture on aging, poorly maintained infrastructure and raised concerns about the harm leaked methane could have caused to marine life.

Can we ethically claim this incident as a freak accident?

There is no possibility that this type of incident cannot occur again. Gas leaks are something that has happened innumerable times in the past. Especially if you take the case of Pemex, this isn’t the only accident. They have a long history of terrible and deadly accidents. Greta Thunberg wrote on her Twitter, “Meanwhile, the people in power call themselves ‘climate leaders’ as they open up new oilfields, pipelines, and coal power plants – granting new oil licenses exploring future oil drilling sites. This is the world they are leaving for us.” Voices of discontent and negative comments come from supporters of a tightening global effort to save the environment. While community action alone couldn’t have stopped the fire in the Gulf of Mexico, this should be a sign for our governments and authority bodies to be working alongside our communities, not against them. 

Pemex said the fire took more than five hours to extinguish. Angel Carrizales – the head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA – wrote on Twitter that the incident “did not generate any spill.” However, he did not explain what was burning on the water’s surface.

There is reason to be fearful of such events since we are not sure as to what the company was trying to do, the unmistakable sign that, as humans, we do not care enough about our planet. We have to understand that the disaster is not natural; a corporation and its greed caused it. 

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez called it, ‘the eye of fire’ wasn’t the first time the ocean was on fire, and it most certainly will not be the last. Oil and gas leaks have occurred numerous times in the past 50 years, often related to oil tankers catching on fire and releasing crude oil into the ocean. Perhaps the most famous oil spill also happened in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater crisis in 2010, after an explosion on British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil drill.

Corporations are significant entities globally, and we have to acknowledge their enormous impact (negative and positive) on all our lives. The concerns of overly corporate-led globalization and its contribution to environmental issues increase, especially since the climate crisis has received much more media coverage. There are countless examples where corporate involvement in various issues could contribute to environmental problems. Therefore, we must hold corporations accountable for the problems caused by them. 

Unfettered capitalism is an issue that has been long affecting the lives of everyone on this planet. The world’s top firms cause approximately two trillion in environmental damages, according to a census done in 2010. These companies estimate that around one-third of their profits would be lost if they were made to pay for the damages they have caused. This is a significant reason why companies are not made to pay reparations.

What we can do as Gen Z :

We were made to believe that recycling a little and not using plastic straws can save the world. Even though that is a part of cleaning up the planet, it plays a minimal role if you compare it to the damage giant corporations have caused in the name of profit. As the future generation, we have to take charge of the movement.

Multiple organizations are taking a step to raise awareness about climate issues. The Sunrise Movement, Earth Guardians, and Zero Hour are examples of organizations of young people taking a stand for the better. Many Gen Z organizations all over the world are taking action. This goes beyond posting about it on social media. For example, The Green New Deal proposal would play a significant role in reducing the effects of climate change. Many politicians have been trying to push it ahead and need support, which Gen Z can provide. 

Raising awareness and self-educating is one of the first steps we can take as the youth of today. From protests and petitions to putting pressure on the government to take action, Gen Z is ready to fight for their planet’s future. Gen Z has the power to change the fate of our dying planet, and we must take it. If you wish to take action now, some links to websites to visit and petitions to sign are given below:

This article was written by Rakshitha Raghunandan and Akanksha Pai

Edited by Amirah Khan

Graphics by Rachel



Alone in ‘the Hole’

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people worldwide have been left with no choice but to take refuge in their homes and self-isolate. For some, this meant months of online school or teleworking- detached from friends, teachers, and co-workers. For others, quarantine meant months without seeing their families. Across the globe, physically isolated from each other, many teens and adults have experienced increased feelings of anxiety and depression. One thing is sure: the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the dangerous impacts of isolation. It has shown us how quickly the world becomes dark when we’re separated from all sources of light: friends, family, and significant others. Separated from the world that sits directly outside your door, depression, and anxiety can easily creep in.  

This is the harsh reality that those living in solitary confinement must face every day.   

If it was hard for you to sit in your house, where you most likely had access to a television, phones, a kitchen, a comfortable bed, and even a backyard, imagine the struggle of sitting inside a box for twenty-two to twenty-four hours a day. You can’t see the people in the box next to you or touch them. The only person you may notice is the prison guard delivering your meals. You may not see the sun for days, potentially longer. Rats, mice, and other varmints crawl across the floor and sometimes over your own body when you sleep. This is life for an estimated 80,000 men, women, and children living in the American prison system. 

The History of Solitary Confinement in America

Solitary confinement in the United States was introduced in the late 1700s by the Quakers as an attempt to improve prison conditions. They inaugurated this experiment in hopes that it would increase the rate of successful rehabilitations. They thought that confining a person in solitude would allow them to break free from the evil environmental influences that caused them to commit their crimes. Of course, this was not the case, and instead, it introduced solitary confinement to a country that would later hold the most inmates in solitary confinement in the world.

Graphics by Rachel H.

The Health Impacts of Solitary Confinement 

Research regarding the long-term health effects of solitary confinement is still ongoing, but numerous studies have found that solitary confinement causes psychological distress.

Mental Health Impacts:

  • Anxiety and depression  
  • Panic attacks  
  • Hypersensitivity to light and sounds 
  • Increased rates of self-harm and suicide  

Physical Health Impacts:  

  • Fatigue  
  • Insomnia 
  • Muscle and joint pain due to inactivity 
  • Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight 

So, does solitary confinement prevent recidivism?  

If solitary confinement has such drastic adverse health and psychological impacts, is it at least successful? Success is often measured by the former convict’s ability to find and keep a job and not commit the same (or any offense) again. But data from numerous sources illuminate the alarming truth: 

A majority of those released from solitary confinement are reincarcerated.  

According to a PBS article from 2017, 61% of solitary confinement inmates were rearrested, compared to 49% of general population inmates who were rearrested.

A more recent study conducted in 2019 found a shockingly similar result. Of the 229,274 people released from incarceration in North Carolina between 2000 to 2015, those who were placed in solitary confinement were more likely to die within the first year of release from an opioid overdose, suicide, or homicide death. The study concluded that “Restrictive housing is associated with a higher likelihood of reincarceration and all-cause mortality, including deaths related to opioid overdose, suicide, and homicide.” 

These statistics illustrate the ineffectiveness of solitary confinement. The same program that supporters claim “scare” inmates into reform increases their risk of becoming reincarcerated.  

Building solitary confinement units is also two to three times more expensive than building conventional prison cells.  

Why is this?  

Being rereleased into the world comes with many challenges for those who have lived in solitary confinement for years. Some offenders released from solitary have stated they could not recognize people’s faces, while others were frightened by humans. The truth is, solitary confinement makes living anywhere else nearly impossible. After living in a box for years where sunlight, fresh air, and human interaction are nonexistent, convicts lose all ability to function in any other environment.  

Alternatives to Solitary Confinement 

Twenty-nine states have now introduced laws to ban or restrict solitary confinement, while some have reformed the “prison segregation” system. In 2007, in Parchman, Mississippi, state officials reformed their system to allow inmates outside their units a couple of hours a day. Inmates, through rehabilitation programs, were allowed to work their way up to greater privileges, such as using the basketball courts installed for this reform program. The result: out of more than a thousand inmates in solitary units, only 300 remained after the reform. Eventually, so many inmates were removed from solitary confinement units that Unit 32 was officially closed in 2010. This saved the state of Mississippi more than five million dollars.  

Illinois, Maine, and Colorado have also taken action to acquire successful solitary confinement reform. What these states prove is that safety does not have to be compromised in order to reform solitary confinement practices in America and that there are safer, cheaper, more effective alternatives to solitary confinement.

Read more about solitary confinement from Solitary Watch and the ACLU, or check out our sources below and let us know what you think about solitary confinement by filling out the poll below.

Written and researched by Tiffany Leveille

Edited by Amirah Khan


Alone, in ‘the hole’

Association of Restrictive Housing During Incarceration With Mortality After Release

Does Solitary Confinement Make Inmates More Likely to Reoffend?



How the US Became the World Leader in Solitary Confinement

Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity


The Effects of Solitary Confinement on the Brain

The risks of social isolation

What are the effects of solitary confinement on health?