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Preventing Future Oil Disasters
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Preventing Future Oil Disasters
Dear EcoGirl: My heart is breaking watching the Gulf oil gusher. How can we help prevent such disasters in the future? Signed, Weeping
Dear Weeping: You're not alone in your response. Many of us are horrified at the unfolding Gulf devastation, and hope to never see anything like it again. Unfortunately, though, our demand for oil is pushing drilling into riskier regions, so we'll likely see increasing eco-calamities until we solve the underlying problems.
Certainly, the remedies start with holding BP accountable for its actions and improving drilling regulation. However, we also need to recognize that petroleum is inherently harmful to people and ecosystems throughout its life cycle.
And, since we all use petroleum in our lives and our society, we have a responsibility to help stop the damage.
But what can we do? My column last month offered tips for reducing our largest direct use of oil, passenger cars. (See www.patriciadines.info/EcoGirl3j.html.)
This month, I'll explore how we can reduce our indirect oil use, and help steer our culture in a wiser direction.
Reducing Our Indirect Oil Impacts
Most consumer products require notable amounts of oil for their production, transport, and disposal. Here are some important ways to trim those impacts:
1) Prioritize local, natural, and durable products. Buying local reduces the fuel needed to transport goods; choosing natural avoids petroleum products, including plastics and petrochemicals; and getting durable items avoids disposables and better uses each product's eco-costs.
2) Buy less, reuse, and recycle, to cut our total oil consumption, get full benefit from the oil we do use, and lighten our net burden on the earth. (More about this is at www.storyofstuff.com.)
Encouraging Wiser Policies
In addition to individual action, we need to insist that our leaders constructively address the escalating eco-collapses that put all our lives at risk. Our current shared frustration can motivate us to make the vitally-needed large-scale changes, but only if we act quickly, intelligently, and in large enough numbers.
Many government actions are being suggested; here are three essential ones:
1) Rapidly ramp up renewable energy sources, while significantly cutting total energy usage to meet that smaller supply. The luxury of the oil age is ending, because of pollution and supply constraints. But we can minimize the pain of hitting these limits by proactively transitioning to wiser ways. We have the technology and community interest; we just need the commitment to change.
Note: This means solar and wind power, not "clean" coal (which isn't) or nuclear (which is too costly and hazardous).
2) Shift government subsidies from fossil fuels to clean energy. The U.S. oil and gas industry receives between $15 and $35 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies, according to Greenpeace. This helps keep oil prices artificially low, tilting our individual decisions towards self-harm. But, instead of funding our own demise, we can invest in our well-being, by adjusting what we reward.
3) Implement a cap-and-dividend program, so that the marketplace reflects the real costs of fossil fuels and we each have the funds to adapt. This approach makes much more sense than the easily-manipulated complexities of cap-and-trade. (See www.capanddividend.org.)
Learning the Key Lessons
To help nurture our cultural shift, I suggest we also receive and pass along these core lessons from this experience:
1) The environment is vital to our everyday survival, and when it's harmed, the ripples often travel far.
2) The expected eco-crises can happen suddenly and irreversibly; they won't necessarily be gradual or fixable.
3) Disaster prevention is cheaper, easier, and more effective than cleanup.
4) We'll all be living with the result of our collective eco-choices.
If we can integrate these insights into our everyday culture, perhaps this painful event can be the wake-up call our country finally hears. But if we keep delaying action, we'll increasingly feel as the Gulf folks do -- desperate, hopeless, and angry about the lives and income lost because of our own foolish actions.
The real bottom line is that we can (and must) meet humanity's needs without disabling nature's precious life-giving ecosystems. We each can help create that better world by what we do today.
For more information and actions, see [this article at] www.patriciadines.info/EcoGirl3k.html.
Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>.
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"EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone."
© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2010. All rights reserved.
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THE HARM DONE FROM THE GULF SPILL
Summer of oil looms for beleaguered Gulf Coast, By TED
ANTHONY and MARY FOSTER, Associated Press Writers, May 31
"I was just sitting here thinking our way of life is over. It's the end, the apocalypse," said fisherman Tom Young of Plaquemines Parish on the coast.
MANY INNOCENTS GET HURT ON THIS PATH.
Florida Skips Offshore Oil Binge but Still Pays, Maggie Steber, The New York Times, June 12, 2010
When rigs first started drilling for oil off Louisiana's coast in the 1940s, Floridians scanned their shoreline, with its resorts and talcum-white beaches, and said, No thanks. Go ahead and drill, they told other Gulf Coast states; we'll stick with tourism.
SHOWING THE RIPPLES OF HARM THAT HAPPEN
BP Oil Spill Lawsuits Spread to States Beyond Gulf Coast, BusinessWeek, June 16, 2010, 12:03 AM EDT
QUICK WAYS TO HELP
The Gulf Oil Spill: 6 Ways to Help, May 3, 2010. "Whether
you volunteer, report oil-slicked wildlife, write to Congress, donate
money or boycott BP, there are several actions you can take in
response to the unprecedented BP/Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico.|
IT'S NOT JUST BP; OIL IS INHERENTLY POLLUTING
Beyond BP, Wesley Warren's Blog, May 26, 2010
"It is easy to say that BP is the problem, and that the long-term solution is merely to punish this one reckless company. Consider, though, that the company is just one piece of a larger problem."
OIL HAS BEEN AN ONGOING ASSAULT ON THE GULF.
It's not just BP: The BP oil gusher is just the latest in a long line of assaults on the Gulf of Mexico 3, by Diane Wilson, May 28 2010 2:29 PM
Oil CEOs criticize BP's well, but have identical response
plans, By JENNIFER A. DLOUHY, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, June 15, 2010,
Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe
ignore it, John Vidal, environment editor, The Observer, 30 May
Oil pollutes everything there and has for decades. "The scale of the pollution is mind-boggling provides us with a far more accurate picture of the price we have to pay for drilling oil today "We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US But in Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people's livelihood and environments"
"Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oilfields all over the world and very few people seem to care." "There is an overwhelming sense that the big oil companies act as if they are beyond the law." www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/30/oil-spills-nigeria-niger-delta-shell
EVEN INVESTORS RECOGNIZE THAT THIS SECTOR IS RISKIER THAN
Analysis: Investors to turn up scrutiny of oil firms, By Gerard Wynn, Jun 4, 2010
Global Emissions Predicted to Grow through 2035, By Joel
Kirkland and Climatewire, May 26, 2010
"The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a jump of more than 40 percent in carbon dioxide emissions globally, thanks to growth in China, India and elsewhere." (Note: The trend with greenhouse gases, and climate change, IF we don't change our direction!)
A CALL TO A BIGGER CHANGE
Behold our dark, magnificent horror, By Mark Morford, SF
Gate Columnist, June 4, 2010
"What an extraordinary horror our rapacious need for cheap, endless energy hath unleashed"
"it's gloomily nice to think our darkest disaster in a generation could somehow ultimately improve our attitudes, change our behavior, lighten our violent treatment of the planet. .are we even capable of such a shift?
Who Will Answer Our Clean Energy Wake Up Call?, Huffington
Post, by Leilani Münter, June 3, 2010
"Perhaps one day we will look back at this oil spill and think "If the Gulf Coast oil spill hadn't happened, we wouldn't have kick started our clean energy economy back in 2010. I am a race car driver; my career is currently based around an internal combustion engine, and yet even I can see the importance of energy independence and the move towards the use of clean, renewable energy. We are at a crossroads and I hope we take the right turn -- or maybe it's a left?... We either change the way we are living on the planet or relegate ourselves to eventually having our planet covered with oily water, polluted air, Charles Darwin once said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives. Nor is it the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."
THE KEY QUESTION: WE DECIDE WHAT FUTURE SCENARIO HAPPENS
The BP Disaster Marks the End of the Age of Arrogance About the Environment ... Can We Change?, AlterNet, By Chip Ward, June 10, 2010 "This spill will mark the time we started to learn about ecocide; a turning point in our realization that our industrial, carbon-dependent way of life cannot last.
The next debt crisis will be ecological, Marc Gunther
(I love this framing; that the debt crises is a warning for the bigger eco-crisis, because they show the same errors in thinking and behavior. Except - while we printed money to try to solve the debt crisis, nature can't just make new ecosystems!)
MAKING PERSONAL CHANGES
Greentech: Recipe for Green Tires: Plants, Not Petroleum, New York Times, By STEVEN ASHLEY, June 17, 2010 www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/automobiles/20TIRE.html
MAKING COMMUNITY LEVEL CHANGES
PRESIDENT OBAMA UNDERSTANDS SOME OF THESE CONCEPTS, JUST NEEDS
US TO INSIST AND SUPPORT -- AND TO ADJUST CERTAIN DETAILS SUCH AS NO
Obama: There's a Reason I Never Said "Drill, Baby, Drill", CBS News, May 27, 2010
At a press conference today focused largely on the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama explained why he never joined Republican calls to "drill, baby, drill."
"The fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater and then drill another three miles below that, in order to hit oil, tells us something about the direction of the oil industry," he said. "Extraction is more expensive and it is going to be inherently more risky."
"And so that's part of the reason you never heard me say drill, baby, drill. Because we can't drill our way out of the problem," he said.
The president said that "the easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground" - which means that "moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there's probably going to end up being more risk."
"And we as a society are going to have to make some very serious determinations in terms of what risks are we willing to accept," he said.
THE TRANSITION TO ALTERNATIVE ENERGY IS DOABLE.
Weaning the world off oil: Can we really kick the habit?, by Laura Busch CBC News, June 9, 2010
Rand recently published the book Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit: 10 Clean Technologies to Save our World.
"You mention in your book that you were not 100 percent certain when you started looking into renewable energy that it was realistic to switch within a short time. So, what was it that changed your mind to make you think that this change is possible within a lifetime?." "We've already got this stuff and it really just surprised me at the level of maturity of the technology and the sheer scale at which we are already beginning to deploy these things. It's capital, people, politics and behaviour that we need to change.
Oil industry subsidies for dummies, by Dallas Kachan,
Cleantech Group, January 5, 2007
Obama Calls For Rolling Back Oil Company Tax Breaks To Net
Billions For Alternative Energy, June 2, 2010. (Except I strongly
disagree about doing more nukes. Just on cost alone it doesn't make
sense. The same money could buy so much more green energy.)
NO MORE NUKES!
Apocalypse Now and Next: From Gulf Spill to Nuke Disaster, AlterNet, By Harvey Wasserman, June 10, 2010 "We just ignited a disaster beyond our technical control. Why are we on the brink of doing it again?"
Precaution and the Deepwater Horizon, Rachel's Precaution
Reporter #193, May 2010
"Nothing more clearly demonstrates the need for the precautionary principle than the ongoing disaster in the Gulf."
FOR MORE SPECIFIC COMMUNITY-LEVEL ACTION IDEAS
Ten Transportation Steps for Kicking the Offshore Oil Habit, Jonathan Hiskes, May 24, 2010
For more information on this and related
eco-topics, see my other Ask
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