Ending Oil Addiction Means Confronting the System!

Worker cleaning up oil from the Kalamazoo River yesterday.

As if the troubles facing the Gulf region weren’t enough to totally discredit the whole oil industry, the news came in late yesterday that a burst pipeline has spewed over 800,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek that feeds the Kalamazoo River in Kalamazoo, Michigan (the state I live in).  And if that weren’t already disturbing enough, than maybe the fact that a second oil rig burst into flames yesterday in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, right on the heels of finally plugging the BP leak, will. Somebody’s out to ruin your day (allow me to clarify that I’m just the messenger).

The BP oil spill tragedy was always less about BP, than it actually was about oil addiction, period — and I think that this shows that. Until we end this systemic addiction to oil, fossil fuels, and all dirty industry in general, than these types of tragedies will occur — it’s inherent in the practice.  It’s pathological.

Breaking that oil addiction particularly means addressing the systemic nature of the addiction — confronting those institutions in our society that are maintaining that addiction, forcing them to change their behavior in the short- and medium-term, and then replacing them in the long-term with new institutions constructed around the values we seek (i.e., new sustainable industry, new methods of pricing goods and services that account for ecological and social costs and benefits, etc).  This means moving people beyond “green living” and into “green activism” and organizing.

A friend the other day pointed me toward a book that opens with that notion in mind. Mike Davis, author of Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, says:

“Here’s the awful truth: even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the earth would still be headed, head first and at full speed, toward total disaster for one major reason. The military produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all its inhabitants large and small, in the most immanent danger of extinction.”

The military in particular is just one example, albeit a crucial one. There is a strong desire in this country to end our country’s occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and also a strong desire to prevent catastrophic climate change, and the two are clearly related in a number direct ways.  For just two examples: The U.S. military is the biggest consumer of oil in the world, and many blame the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan squarely on U.S. oil addiction.

Our movements for environmental and social justice become more powerful as our interconnections become deeper — the more we cooperate and recognize that we have common goals and common enemies.  And I say “enemies” because a system that allows somebody to dump millions of barrels of crude into the ocean and than pays them millions of dollars a year for doing that very thing, is definitely my enemy.

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3 Responses to Ending Oil Addiction Means Confronting the System!

  1. Pingback: “Ending Oil Addiction Means Confronting the System!” « Climate Justice Links

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  3. The Destructionist says:

    On Monday night (July 26) an oil pipeline – owned by Enbridge Energy Inc. – burst and spilled over 1,000,000+ gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek, Michigan. Michiganders are scrambling to stop the flow from getting into Lake Michigan, but I fear their efforts are in vain.

    According to the latest local news reports, it seems that Enbridge was slow to react to the emergency, while under reporting the actual amount of oil that was leaked into the river. Since Monday, the situation has grown even worse. Birds and other animal wildlife, coated with oil, have been found. People living along the river have been warned to evacuate the area along the river way and not to drink their well water for fear of contamination.

    1,000,000+ gallons of oil may not sound like much to some, considering the amount of oil now floating just underwater in the Gulf of Mexico, but in such a confined area – like the Kalamazoo River – that amount is devastating. As the oil continues to flow west, it will soon reach Lake Michigan, affecting the drinking water of millions of people, killing all wildlife, and despoiling the true beauty of the great lake.

    I’m really starting to believe that corporations don’t give a damn about anything other than their profits. As I stated in one of my previous blog posts (Who Put Corporations in Charge?), “…what good is money, after all, if you don’t have air to breathe, water to drink, or food to eat without fear of contamination?”

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