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WATCH: Riki Ott Explains the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill on Democracy Now!

Dr. Riki Ott, an Exxon Valdez survivor, marine toxicologist, fisherma’am, and author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill sits with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! to discuss the significance of the Exxon Valdez twenty years after the disaster.

Here is a partial transcript:

Amy: Where were you March 24th, 1989?

Riki: I was in bed! I heard this knocking on my door at seven o’clock in the morning, and I thought, “What in the world?!” because I live half a mile up and people actually had to hike in. And I went rushing down and there was the acting director of the fisherman’s union and he just said, “We’ve had the big one.” …I knew exactly what he meant.

Amy: What were you doing then? What was your job?

Riki: I was working, I was on the board of the fisherman’s union, and I was assigned the oil issues.

Amy: …And you were in Cordova?

Riki: I was in Cordova.

Amy: So what did you see when you went outside?

Riki:  I flew. I had to fly over it. It was about 70 miles away. And we flew in this plane and it was a surreal scene. It was just drop-dead gorgeous. March sunrise. Pink mountains glistening with the sunrise, and all of a sudden we come on this scene where there’s this red deck of an oil tanker that’s three-football-fields long in flat, calm water, dark blue. And there’s this inky black stain that’s just stretching with the tide.

Amy: What did you do?

Riki: We did a marine mammal survey right off the bat. We knew it wouldn’t be calm weather very long. We went to Valdez to refuel, and that’s when it hit me: What am I gonna do about this? And I remember this question popped into my mind, “I know enough to make a difference. Do I care enough?”

And I decided that yes, I did care. This was my home. I’d lived there for four years now already, and I’d totally fallen in love with the area, the people, the lifestyle. And I decided to step up and make a difference….

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