Eight years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people, pouring 5-million barrels of oil into the ocean and contaminating more than 1,700km of US coastal wetlands and beaches. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history. In the following months, while oil continued to gush into the Gulf, I was tasked as then president Barack Obama’s director of energy and climate change policy with dealing with the aftermath. I heard heart-breaking stories of communities and businesses suffering enormous and irreparable losses. I hope no other country ever has to endure what I witnessed that terrible summer, but history has a habit of repeating itself if its lessons are not heeded. I served on the Global Ocean Commission, a panel of world leaders concerned about the future of oceans. At a meeting in Cape Town the group listened to South Africans’ concerns. SA has vast expanses of precious marine ecosystems and its oceans provi...

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