07 Oct Disasters Engineered
The scale of modernity is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. When things go right, our lives are more comfortable and prosperous than at any time in history. Unfortunately, when things go wrong, they can go catastrophically wrong.
Thanks to pesticides, we can grow enough food to feed every person on earth a healthy meal and still have food leftover. Unfortunately, when something went wrong in a pesticide factory in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India, it poisoned over 500,000 people. The Bhopal disaster, as it became known, was a gas leak of poisonous methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas which caused the death of at least 3,787 people. More than half a million people contracted non-fatal injuries, of which about 3,900 were severe and permanently disabling.
Out of all the ways we make electricity, nuclear power has the highest capacity factor: 93.5%, compared to coal power plant’s 47.5%. That means that one nuclear power plant makes more electricity than two coal power plants combined. Unfortunately, when something went wrong at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukrainian, it made the plant and the surrounding town uninhabitable for between 320 and 20,000 years, depending on who you ask. The Chernobyl disaster, as it became known, immediately killed two people and hospitalized 134 others, of which 28 died. The human and environmental damage of the nuclear fallout caused worldwide outrage and public fear of using nuclear power as an energy source.
Thanks to oil, we can make a lot of useful things. Without it, we can’t have cars, ink, ballpoint pens, soap, deodorants, paint, toothpaste, nor thousands of other items that we use daily. Unfortunately, when something went wrong on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, 4.9 million barrels of oil poured into the ocean. Between one and five-thousand barrels of oil were spilt into the sea every day for 87 days. 180,000 km2 around the rig were directly affected, as seen from space. Sealife in the surrounding area died at record rates. The oil, contaminated over 700 kilometres of shoreline. The explosion that caused the disaster killed 11 people.
These are but three examples featured in the 10-episode series of Disasters Engineered. With the help of real footage and interviews with experts, we’ll find out exactly what went wrong on those fateful days. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from our mistakes so that these things never happen again.
Thursdays at 10 PM on DaVinci (ch 308) from the 8th of October