Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Education and Service

So here's some great thinking to wake up to on a semi-frozen November after an election no less.

I've been having a lot of thoughts involving alarmism and nightmare scenarios. While this is in no way new (I tend to be predisposed to this kind of stuff) I'm just finding myself more and more frustrated with the status quo. What set this off is this: I went to a talk the other day by a science writer who described the Deepwater Horizon accident as the "worst spill in human history."

This is a complicated statement. It's also probably false. We don't have enough data but it's probably true that 3 or 4 oil disasters were technically "bigger" in that they spilled more oil. And all her agitated, furious emoting led me to think about one thing and one thing only. That the speaker would, after lamenting the human-induced environmental degradation of the Louisiana marshland get in a car powered by fossil fuels and drive home.

We're all very angry and most of us don't seem to change our actions.

I know this is not supposed to be a blog about sustainability but to me this isn't necessarily a question of how much oil is left in the Gulf. It's the fact that even when we first started drilling oil it was incredibly damaging to local ecosystems. By its very nature oil is bad for the environment. This has nothing to do with how much is left. The stuff is almost the archetype of pollutant.

So I'm not sure I follow my own thinking but here's where it's gone, in two directions. Is educating enough? Is appreciation enough? I've felt comfortable with my role in all of this. I teach, I get kids and grown ups excited about the natural world. That will mean they'll be better stewards. Right...? Or should I be rethinking this? Should I be on the ground giving service instead?

Secondly: If we're all so angry why don't we do something big. No Impact man has tried this but I think his ambitions are a little too lofty. What if we talk about a strict two or three day boycott of fossil fuels? I'm sure folks who care enough can take a few days off work to boycott dirty energy. I'm sure we could do it over the weekend. My thinking is that until we show the oil industry and the government that we really mean business things are going to stagnate here, where we all care but nothing is really happening. And I'm pretty sure a massive boycott of oil would hit industry in its wallet. I know it's not something we'd be able to keep up: after all we're all dependent on petroleum products. But what if we really committed ourselves to letting go of at least a little bit of that dependency? What then?

Not sure how that's all going to read. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, whoever you are.

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