I’ve been wanting to write for the last week about the current Gulf Oil disaster, but haven’t really been quite sure what to say. There are simply so many tangents to this mess that I’ve not known where to start. The deaths of 11 people seem, unfortunately, to fade into the melée of concern about big oil, political ineptness, poisoned ecosystems, fathomless litigations, ad infinitum. The web we weave seems larger than the spread of oil.
It makes sense, to me, to start at home. The reality is that this catastrophe stares us right in the eyeball. The mirror reflects our own lives – I drive a car, I love my gore-tex and silnylon tents, my synthetic-fill jacket, my polycarbonate cameras. I eat fresh bananas and whole grain breads shipped here from afar. My computer was flown directly from Shanghai, China. The world I live in is a fossil fuel world. That world includes crude oil belching from the ocean floor into the Gulf of Mexico, and on to Gaia knows where.
So I bear responsibility in this mess; I want cheap gasoline, cheap oil. I complained about the soaring gasoline prices just 2 years ago. I failed to demand that the federal government not exempt BP from an environmental impact study. I failed to demand that Minerals Management Services mandate a remote-control shut-off switch on all drilling operations. I failed to demand that the oil industry follow the strictest, safest procedures possible.
But it goes further than that; I failed to say ‘enough‘. I have enough gear, enough technology, enough information, enough shoes (trust me, I have more than enough shoes). Enough of everything. The Pavlovian demand for ‘more‘ that we’re conditioned to believe is ‘normal‘ drives this rig. The push for more oil, more power, more energy, more economy, more technology, more information, more shoes, more blogs, more photos, more Gore-tex, more noise. It is critically insane to believe that more pollution, more disaster, more dysfunction, more unhappiness, more hunger, more disease, more war and more tragedy won’t be a part of that system.
Because the 2 are inseparable. More energy is more pollution. More consumption is more extinction. More technology is more dissatisfaction. More information is more misinformation. More gasoline is more oil is more drilling is more than 5000 barrels of oil haemmorhaging from the earth; is more dead terns and pelicans and oil rig workers killed on the job.
If we decide to start at home, then I think we HAVE to start with remolding our economy; the word “economy” is a combination of 2 Greek words: “oikos” or “house” and “nemos” which means “to manage”. “Economy”, then, translates to manage your house or to manage your affairs.
We have to see our economic ideal of unmitigated growth as a death sentence, because it’s killing the planet. In fact, how often do we use that very word to describe economic activity? We WANT to make a killing, we HOPE to make a killing; that’s a good deal, no? When that killing washes up on a Louisiana beach in the form of an oil-soaked shorebird, why don’t we understand THAT is the killing we’ve been in pursuit of?
Can I do with less? I know I can do with less pollution. Less energy, less noise, less frenetic pursuit of that infernal more. When is enough enough? When is enough too much? When it comes in the form of 200 thousand gallons of oil spewing into the ocean? Or when we get that new G3 iPhone?
Let’s do better.