By Margaret Hedderman
April 20th, 2010, an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. 11 people dead. 17 injured. It was the beginning of a catastrophe – the extent of which is still unknown. Deepwater Horizon gushes 25,000 – 30,000 barrels of oil into the ocean per day. BP has made multiple attempts to seal the leak with little to no success. The Obama Administration has come under scrutiny for its involvement (or lack thereof) with the cleanup. And, as tragic as the spill is, nothing will change.
The United States government will continue to look the other way as oil companies abandon safety measures in favour of profit. Consumers will continue to buy plastic Coca-Cola bottles. And Americans will continue to drive a mile to the grocery store instead of walk. Seeds of change don’t germinate in sympathy – no matter how sorrowfully the heartstrings are plucked. Photographs of oil slick seagulls will inspire few to swap their SUVs for bicycles.
The innate causes of the spill are inherently the same reason it will happen again. Such reasoning is not advocacy for the status quo. The reigning global society prizes growth above recession. An economic downturn is certainly bad for business, but is business good for the environment? An ever spiking GDP is unsustainable. Our current recession is case in point. Economists will argue here, but a philosopher will win. When human life is finite, why should our systems differ?
Imagine you couldn’t make your car payment. You can’t afford gas. The solution? Ride a bike. Walk. What if this became an epidemic? Or, perhaps… a depression? Then, and only then, would you see an end to our oil dependence.
Of course, our automobile habits are not the only thing driving this crisis. The American Dream itself has come to mean an ability to endlessly consume without repercussion. Consume food. Consume pleasure. Consume material goods. Nearly 25% of a half-hour television program is spent in advertising. According to Nielsens statistics, Americans watch 250 billion hours of television a year; which translates roughly into 62.5 billion hours of commercials. In the same way that a fat man can’t eat infinite Big Macs without suffering at least one clogged artery, a population cannot buy, buy, buy without heart failure. That said, our society doesn’t value moderation. Moderation doesn’t put money in the bank. Nor, it seems, does the stock market.
Don’t argue with the governing powers (unless you’re a geologist) – money does make the world go round. And it’s spinning faster and faster. Is technology struggling to keep up? Or are we each a John Henry: racing the machine until we collapse in exhaustion? 3G networks. Faster Google Chrome. 200 mph trains. A recent article in Wired magazine describes how driving slower not only saves gas, but could cut carbon emissions by 30%. Our lifestyles, however, aren’t made to slow down. It’s pedal to the metal, baby.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stated recently: “The oil spill tells us in a very clear way that our over-dependence on fossil fuels is an issue we must grapple with as a world and as a nation. We must move away from our over-dependence on fossil fuels because our national security requires us to, because our national economy requires us to, and because the future of the planet requires us to.”
What Mr. Salazar regrettably forgot to mention, was that over-dependence on fossil fuels is not the problem. An over-dependence on an out-dated, increasingly immoral set of core American values is.