BP has been the target in the recent oil spill crisis in the Gulf Coast, for more than obvious reasons. Blame has been placed in the hands of others besides BP – the off-shore drilling company, Bush’s repeal of the ban on off-shore drilling, the lack of regulations, and, my personal favorite, Rush Limbaugh’s blaming of the Sierra Club.
However, the media and the public have been so quick to blame and villianize BP that the real problem of over-reliance on oil has been greatly neglected. Few, if any, in the media mention that many other oil companies and their political proponents continue to chant “drill, baby, drill,” and despite Obama’s moratorium on off-shore drilling, big oil still has a strong-hold on our society. Our car culture and the majority of our consumer products are based on petroleum, and therefore, the constant need for more oil. The public may cringe at the images of oil-soaked birds and sludge ruining our beaches, but we then turn around and drive gas guzzlers, surround ourselves with plastic, and remain politically apathetic about the environment.
In order for real change to take effect, we need to do more than villianize or even boycott BP (don’t even bother boycotting BP, by the way, since most gas stations get their gas from multiple sources, not just the name on the sign outside). We need to hold corporations accountable for their actions, even if they “fix” the problems, pay out millions of dollars, and apologize profusely. “I’m sorry” certainly won’t prevent the next oil spill from occurring, if regulations aren’t put in place.
In the meantime, while we wait and hope (and as always vote!) for these changes, there is something everyone can do in their everyday life: stop and/or limit the use of oil-based products.
- Most obviously, the less you can drive, the better. Use mass transit when possible, bike to nearby places, take a walk around the neighborhood rather than drive to the gym, drive only once a week or less to the grocery store. Little efforts like these make a difference, if committed en masse.
- Buy toiletries that don’t use paraffin, petroleum, or mineral oil.
- Buy or make cleaning products that are naturally-based (vinegar, baking soda, etc.) and aren’t made with petrochemicals.
- Same goes for most candles, which are paraffin-based. Try soy-based candles instead.
- Stop the obsession with plastic! Say no to plastic water bottles, plastic bags, Tupperware, etc. Glass or stainless steel offer better solutions.
- It bears repeating: as a society, we need to continue to pressure our leaders and our family/friends/communities to find more non-oil fuel alternatives. In 2009, Obama spent $15 billion on renewable energy investments; however, we spend over a trillion on wars for oil (Iraq and Afghanistan). Certainly, we can spend far more on renewable energy each year – and not have to sacrifice the lives of our soldiers in return. Vote, vote, vote! Make calls, sign petitions, and talk about these issues with everyone you know.
And just to leave on a somewhat happier note, check out this hilarious video: