On May 29, 2020, twenty thousand tons of oil leaked into the river Ambarka, which flows northward into the Arctic Ocean, after a fuel tank collapsed near the Siberian city of Norilsk. The company involved was Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest nickel producing company. Due to the oil leak, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency.1,2
However, officials only became aware of the situation two days after it happened—through social media, no less. This led to an angry response from President Putin.1
It is likely that the negligence and delayed reporting will meet with real-world consequences. President Putin “ordered an investigation into the accident and a manager at the power plant has since been detained.”1
Certainly the magnitude of the disaster warrants serious attention: The oil spill has contaminated an area about 11% the size of Rhode Island.
The accident is believed to be the second largest in modern Russian history in terms of volume, an [unnamed individual] from the World Wildlife Fund told the AFP news agency. It has contaminated a 350 sq km (135 sq mile) area state media report.1
The petroleum industry, like many aspects of modern living, is constantly filled with complicated dangers.
However, this is not the first time this company has been involved in environmental mishaps. In 2016, “an accident at one of its plants was responsible for turning a nearby river red.”1
Norilsk Nickel says that heavy rains on 5 September  caused a "filtration dam" at its Nadezhda plant to overflow into the Daldykan River. … The company had flatly denied it was responsible when images of the red river near Norilsk emerged last week. … Norilsk Nickel controlled access to the entire Taymyr Peninsula, where the incident happened, hampering investigators looking into pollution from its plants. [Russia’s] Environment Ministry officials had suggested last week that a leak of chemical pollutants from a pipe at the industrial site could have discoloured the river. Norilsk Nickel denied any such claim, however, even posting pictures allegedly showing the river with a "natural tone" on 7 September .3
All the more reason to watch out for the kind of perils that are foreseeable, such as oil spills. In fact, the concept of foreseeable harm is contained in the Mosaic law of negligence, illustrated by the scenario of the “goring ox.”4
It is important to sound the alarm early, when doing so can prevent—or at least mitigate—an approaching disaster. Of course, altruistically sharing the Gospel of redemption in Christ is the best warning of all, even if it involves costly risks.5
Stage image: Arctic Circle oil spill.
Stage image credit: AFP. Copyright © 2020. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.
1. Staff writer. Russia's Putin Declares State of Emergency after Arctic Circle Oil Spill. BBC News. Posted on bbc.com June 3, 2020, accessed June 8, 2020.
2. “MMC Norilsk Nickel is a diversified mining and metallurgical company, the world's largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel and a major producer of platinum and copper. The company also produces cobalt, rhodium, silver, gold, iridium, ruthenium, selenium, tellurium, sulphur and other products.” Staff writer. MMC Norilsk Nickel: Clean-Up Underway After Accidental Diesel Spill at Norilsk Nickel's Heat And Power Plant № 3. London Stock Exchange. Posted on londonstockexchange.com June 3, 2020, accessed June 8, 2020.
3. Staff writer. Russia's Norilsk Nickel Admits 'Red River' Responsibility. BBC News. Posted on bbc.com September 12, 2016, accessed June 8, 2020.
4. Exodus 21:29.
5. Ezekiel 33:2-10, especially 33:7. Compare also 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 with John 3:14-21.
*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.