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Not One Drop

Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

By Riki Ott
Foreword by John Perkins

Betrayed by oilmen’s promises in the 1970s, the people of Prince William Sound, Alaska, awaken on March 14, 1989, to the nation’s largest oil spill. Not One Drop is an extraordinary tale of ordinary lives ripped apart by disaster and of community healing through building relationships of trust. This story offers critical lessons for a society traumatized by political divides and facing the looming catastrophe of global climate change.

Author Riki Ott, a rare combination of commercial salmon “fisherm’am” and PhD marine biologist, describes firsthand the impacts of oil companies’ broken promises when the Exxon Valdez spills most of its cargo and despoils thousands of miles of shore. Ott illustrates in stirring fashion the oil industry’s 20-year trail of pollution and deception that predated the tragic 1989 spill and delves deep into the disruption to the fishing community of Cordova over the following 19 years. In vivid detail, she describes the human trauma coupled inextricably with that of the sound’s wildlife and its long road to recovery.

Ott critically examines shifts in scientific understanding of oil-spill effects on ecosystems and communities, exposes fundamental flaws in governance and the legal system, and contrasts hard won spill-prevention and spill-response measures in the sound to dangerous conditions on the Alaska pipeline. Her human story, varied background, professional training, and activist heart lead readers to the root of the problem: a clash of human rights and corporate power embedded in law and small-town life.

Not One Drop is as much an example of how too many corporate owners and political leaders betray everyday citizens as it is one of the universal struggle to maintain heart, to find the courage to overcome disaster, and to forge a new path from despair to hope.


"Ott is the Erin Brockovitch of the Exxon Valdez oil disaster. In Not One Drop she recounts a riveting tale of loss, intrigue, cover-ups, and courage--and in the process helps us all see why we will be glad to leave behind the age of oil."--Fran Korten, Publisher of YES! Magazine

"Riki Ott, a modern day Joan of Arc, was in the right place at the right time to become witness to one of the most egregious crimes against man and nature in modern day history. Riki has proven through her willingness to expose the corporate corruption and cover up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill that she is a courageous, caring, and passionate voice for the people and the planet."--Laura Turner Seydel, Chair of the Captain Planet Foundation and cofounder of Mothers & Others for Clean Air

"Aldo Leopold wrote, 'A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.'The tragic Exxon Valdez oil spill is wrong!Riki Ott is the right person--at the right place--at the right time. Her expertise as an author and as a marine toxicologist alerts us to the true cost of our addiction to oil--not just monetary cost, but ecological cost. Democracy and the planet are at stake."--Nina Bradley, Director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation

"Riki Ott takes the debate on fossil fuels to a new level in this compelling book. When will the oil companies wake up to realize that--just as U.S. car companies missed the boat on fuel efficient cars--the ExxonMobils of the world need to diversify the types of energy they offer? Somehow, the people of Cordova, Alaska, knew the truth before the oil executives or the politicians they elected."--David Rockefeller, Jr., Founder, Sailors for the Sea

“As you read the following pages, allow your heart to break. Imagine Cordova as your home and Prince William Sound as your backyard. When you set the book down, make an absolute, iron-clad commitment to join other men and women who are determined to create a world that future generations will want to inhabit.”--John Perkins, from the Foreword

"Not One Drop unflinchingly documents the full measure of sacrifice made by a few so the rest of us can get our next fix of oil. The price at the pump must now also be measured in shattered communities and our humanity itself. Bravo to Riki Ott for delivering another knockout punch to our petroleum-powered complacency."--Terry Tamminen, Cullman Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, and former Secretary of the California EPA

"Millions of words have been written about the Exxon Valdez spill. It's been my (sometimes dreary and depressing) duty to read most of them. But of all the official reports, learned papers, TV documentaries, newspaper articles and books, this is by far the best. Riki has written her masterpiece. It's not just about an oil spill and about its dire effects on a community of a few thousand fishing families in a remote and beautiful corner of the North Pacific; it's bigger than that. The themes are community values and corporate lies; the endless tussle between truth and falsehood, between good and evil.Surprisingly, Riki's long-awaited book is more cheerful than I expected; she meticulously logs the catastrophe and its aftermath (and hints at the sacrifices in her personal life that all this campaigning entailed), but out of the despair there is hope here--hope that a better-informed, more vigilant and more self-confident public will follow her example and challenge the corporate arrogance that continues to make so many people's lives an avoidable misery, worldwide."--Dr. Jonathan Wills, writer, wildlife guide, and Shetland (Scotland) Councillor

Publishers Weekly-
Ott, a former Prince William Sound fisherman and longtime activist around the Exxon Valdez Alaska oil spill of 1989, pours plenty of passion into this exhaustive account of the financial and psychological toll on the residents of Cordova, the town most affected by the disaster. Her book is a scathing indictment of Exxon's take-no-prisoners legal roadblocks. She enumerates the full horror of the spill's aftermath: the 1989 loss of $50 million in fishery revenue, a botched cleanup effort, the onslaught of oil-company lobbyists and continuing fish habitat degradation. Ott focuses on Cordova's struggle to rebuild a sense of community while coping with personal bankruptcies and failing marriages, and covers the legal skirmishing for compensation for the more than 3,000 fishermen who filed claims, closing with a melancholy coda following the Supreme Court's decision to reduce the original jury award against Exxon from more than $5 billion to about $500 million--"devastating news" for those "whose lives entered a state of turmoil some 19 years ago." Though Ott's narrative is often bogged down with too much detail, she covers an enormous amount of ground with engaging humanity.

Not One Drop is a gripping story of what happened in Cordova, a small fishing village of some 2,500 people, as a result of the 4.11 million gallons of oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez tanker into Prince William Sound on March 14, 1989. Developed from interviews with townspeople, state and federal officials, and politicians, this book describes a classic case of the worst of commercialism versus the best of environmentalism, with the former aided and abetted by those with vested interests. Beginning with a description of marine biologist Ott's idyllic but demanding life in commercial fishing, the four subsequent parts of the work, "Promises," "Betrayal," "Courage," and "New Beginnings," provide a comprehensive inventory of the events that devastated the social fabric of Cordova. The superbly detailed "Timeline" covers the 1968 discovery of oil on the Alaska North Slope up to the June 25, 2008, Supreme Court decision limiting punitive damages from the spill. The book includes color photographs of happy and sad times as well as ones showing oil-slicked waterfowl and humans, many of whom suffered from a respiratory condition known as "Valdez Crud." Detailed listing of supporting notes and excellent index. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels of readership.


Riki Ott

Riki Ott

Marine oil pollution expert Riki Ott, PhD, was on the scene before, during, and after one of the biggest environmental disasters in the United States--the Exxon Valdez oil spill. A former commercial salmon "fisherma'am" in Prince William Sound, she experienced firsthand the spill's effects, including environmental devastation, economic losses to the fishing industry, and psychosocial trauma to the close-knit community. 1993's spill-related salmon- and herring-population collapses prompted Ott to retire from fishing and found three nonprofit organizations to deal with the area's lingering social, economic, and environmental harm. A popular and dynamic lecturer, her talks weave the legacy of the Exxon Valdez spill into current issues of public health, environmental pollution, and our energy future--and inspire individuals to take action.


Separation of Corporation and State: The 28th Amendment

Dr. Riki Ott, author of Not One Drop, speaks about oil spill

Live Locally: Dr. Riki Ott Recommends Local Sustainability

20 Years After Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Alaskan Coastline Remains Contaminated

1989 Exxon Meeting in Cordova, Alaska

The Oil Polluting Alaska Twenty Years after Exxon Valdez

Riki Ott discussing her book Not One Drop

Riki Ott discussing her book Not One Drop

Riki Ott on the environment: "We are running out of time." 1/3

Riki Ott on the environment: "We are running out of time." 1/3

Not One Drop

eBook: 9781603581110
Pub. Date November 15, 2008

Available In/Retail Price

eBook, 352 pages, $21.95