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.