I’m responsible for the giant oil spill happening in the Gulf of Mexico at BP’s Deepwater Horizon site. And so are you. Oh, sure, we aren’t the ones who literally drilled into the sea floor and then made bad management decisions somewhere along the way that led to this catastrophe. But BP and its brethren exist and flourish because we, as citizens of this planet, are petroleum addicts. So it’s a bit tiring to hear everyone call for “the criminals at BP” to be severely punished. When a crack dealer sells his product to a junkie, both he and his buyer are criminals. It’s the same thing with oil and the resulting petroleum.
We’re junkies. We can’t get enough of the stuff to satiate our needs. We keep saying we’re going to do things differently, we’re going to kick the habit and we are going to make better choices before our addiction kills us. And then we pay the peddler on the corner another $3 per gallon for just one more hit before we change our ways — starting tomorrow.
And it’s not just the gasoline we pour into our cars and trucks that feed our addiction. Almost everything you come in contact with from the moment you arise in the morning to the instant you drift off to sleep at night is in your life because of that oil pouring out of a gaping wound in our planet. Here’s a partial list of the approximately 6,000 items made from petroleum. And even if you don’t use products with a petroleum base, which is highly unlikely, they are entering your life by means that use petroleum.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the world consumes 85.5 million barrels of oil per day. The United States alone consumes nearly 19.5 million barrels of that per day. Reports now indicate that at its peak, the Deepwater Horizon leak was pouring at least 840,000 gallons, or about 20,000 barrels of oil, per day into the ocean.
So, what can we do? As a friend said yesterday, “We are the problem and the solution.” Perhaps we need to take a page from Alcoholics Anonymous and begin our own program for kicking the habit. AA relies a lot on spirituality for its members to find redemption. I’m not a terribly spiritual person, so I’m not as inclined to believe that some almighty God is going to save us from ourselves. It’s probably more likely that, as the comedian Robin Williams once said, “Some day, God’s going to look down and say, ‘I gave you a nice planet and you f***ed it up.'”
But we need to start somewhere, so why not here, with a 10-step program, at a blog poetically called Here Comes Later:
- We must admit we are powerless over petroleum —that our current lifestyles are unmanageable without it.
- We must believe there is a cause greater than our own convenience to restore sanity.
- We must make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the only planet we have.
- We must take a fearless moral inventory of ourselves and our actions.
- We must admit to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of how we are contributing to the supply and demand curve of petroleum.
- We must admit our demands are flawed and, if we cannot reduce them, find other ways to meet them.
- We must make a list of all things in nature we are harming and be willing to make amends to them.
- We must continually take a personal inventory of how we are using petroleum-based products and work every day to reduce our reliance upon them.
- We must share our awakening with anyone who will listen, help them understand how they are just like us and work together to solve this growing planetary problem.
- We must stop blaming others, be they oil company executives, manufacturers or politicians, for the demands we place upon them to meet our every want and need immediately at an affordable price as if it is a right we have earned.
Will this solve the problem? Not right away. But pointing fingers at oil company executives alone isn’t a solution. And driving by ourselves in gas-guzzling SUVs to purchase compact fluorescent light bulbs that we carry home in recycled shopping bags isn’t enough.
Perhaps the numbered list above needs to start with the idea that we hold up a picture of the oil spill in a mirror, look into our own faces and say, “I did this, I’m sorry, and it’s time for things to change.”
(Photo by NASA.)
UPDATE: A new collection of photos that show some of the impact of this catastrophe on the Louisiana shore is now available at The Big Picture blog.
UPDATE: “Twice as much oil as originally estimated could have been spewing from the leaking well, new figures given by scientists show. Anywhere from 42 million gallons to more than 100 million gallons have already flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, the Associated Press reports. It is the third time the U.S. government has increased its numbers.” (From USA Today article)