Bringing the Oil Spill Home

a response to the Gulf Oil Spill, spring, 2010

Do you feel angry, sad, hopeless, or ho-hum about the oil spill?
I'm angry, grieving over what we do to our oceans and the life they support, and, along with the emotions, looking for a constructive response.

So far, this latest spill killed eleven workers, then moved on to poison the ocean, decimate wildlife, and lately was gushing over 2 million gallons into the Gulf daily.  No end of consequences yet in sight.

Reviewing what's already known, here's what I think: First, we're all involved.  Not only the oil industry's desire for profits, and government's allowing them to have their way caused the spill. Also we users of petroleum products who increase the demand for oil, even if unintentionally, put our stamp of approval on off-shore drilling with our spending.  We helped create this situation;  we can help change it.  In summary:

You + I + government + oil = environmental destruction

This is the present reality.  Change any variable; the result changes.  Pressure to change certainly should be applied to all variables in this particular equation.  Yet our point of greatest power is ourselves.

Second, petroleum products include a staggering array of goods, from the obvious, like fuels for transportation and home heating, to the less so, such as crayons, dental floss, plastic bags, candles (parafin), ink, bicycle tires, clothing made from synthetic fibers, generating electricity.  (In NYS, for example, about 8% of our electricity comes from oil.)   

And, third, we can't dismiss this spill because of its distance from us.  In fact, the oceans of our planet are all one.  Poison will travel.  Seafood, seaweed, and eventually all life within or dependent on the ocean is affected.  And without strong political will to stop it, offshore drilling will soon be coming to a location near us on the east coast.

Considering all this, I think we would best take this Gulf spill as a call to action.  May corporations, our country, and we ourselves all find within us the will and the persistence to use this horrific spill to move us to change the way we treat our planet.

Specifically in our own co-op, let's find a way to make our next contribution to this change.  We've already stopped using the larger plastic grocery bags at check-out.  Now let's work on getting plastic produce bags out of the co-op.  For the sake of the ocean alone, not even considering any of the other benefits, to divorce ourselves from plastic bags will help in at least two ways:  decrease demand for the oil that is raw material for the bags and thus decrease need for off-shore drilling, and also decrease the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean later to poison water, wildlife, and us.

There are of course other important and needed responses to the oil spill, but  to discontinue use of plastic produce bags is especially appropriate to us as a food co-op.  Let's do it!   

FYI:  a partial list of products made from a barrel of oil, and a good book:  Coming CleanBreaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal, by Michael Brune.

Photo credit NASA, on Flickr